Archive | spicy RSS feed for this section

soviet cuisine

23 Mar

  
World history has never been my forte. Art history? Sure. Food history? Heck yah. Political movements? Not so much. It is not that I don’t get concepts-it is just that I am terrible with names and dates and I have a sneaking suspicion that what I am taught has been passed through a misogynist and Anglicized filter.

Oddly, I can recite recipes for chocolate chip cookies and umpteen cocktails, complete with amounts. And yet I cannot for the life of me remember years that things happened and then I get historical events out of order. Save remembering that WWI was before WWII. Got that one down.

So I’ve been gravitating towards cookbooks that teach me a bit of history too because where there is food involved I am more likely to remember. The CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine deals with Soviet cuisine which is fascinating. The regime in power tried to promote an official cookbook and way of cooking for the all of the Soviet Union’s restaurant and catering businesses in order to get everyone serving exactly the same food everywhere, I suppose. That “official” cuisine seemed to veer towards Russian dishes, but the Soviet Union (aka USSR or CCCP) was pretty vast. The recipes that represent Soviet cuisine found in people’s homes ranges from Russian to Georgian to Tatar.

It is also interesting how much the the economics of the time drove the dishes. There is a reason for all those breadcrumb coated dishes. Meat at the time was scarce and the quality of what was available was poor. Crumbs disguised mystery meat. The lack of meat is the same reason there were so many canned fish, and varying patties of chopped meat.

Scarcity can also lead to remarkably good dishes. Eggplant “caviar” for instance. I’m not making it to replace real caviar. I’m making it because it is pretty dang delicious. Which I found shocking because rarely do I care for eggplant dishes.

The book is full of stories of dictators being jerks (to put it mildly) and the government being corrupt. The stories are alternately funny and sad. For instance the regime would champion eggs as not being so good for you when eggs were not readily available. When eggs finally were available in some abundance the government “realized” that eggs were in fact delicious and nutritious. Mmm, the tasty tales of executive power. By the time I finished reading and cooking through this book, I will be nourished both in body and mind.

As I mentioned, there are quite a few chopped meat recipes. There are some classics like sauerkraut, chicken Kiev, borscht and stroganoff. The recipe I am sharing is a sweet and spicy beet broth eaten with a toasted cheesy bread. Think of it as a variant of the classic pairing of grilled cheese with tomato soup. The topping on the toast is positively addictive. If you don’t like spice, you may wish to cut down the cayenne but being a nut for heat, I went all in.

The story behind this dish is about a chatty lil’ supper meeting between Stalin and Mao. Stalin steered Mao towards the soup because Mao grew up in southeast China, where the Hunan cuisine was full of the spicy flavors. Apparently at this dinner there was some wine drinking too, and Mao asked why Stalin liked to mix red and white wine. Stalin’s answer was that he liked creating his own bouquet of wine flavors. Now, I don’t recommend being like Stalin in general, and I REALLY don’t recommend mixing your red and white wine. But should you be into historical reenaction feel free to pop a couple of bottles open to wash down this meal. Just don’t reenact anything else the dictators might have been up to.

Borschtok with Spicy Toast adapted from The CCCP Cook Book by Olga and Pavel Syutkin

For borschtok:

2-2 1/2 liters meat stock (being veg, I substituted vegetable stock)
400 g (around a pound) beets
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg white
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sugar
For the toast:

2-3 slices white bread
25 g (almost 1 oz.) butter, plus some extra for frying
200 g (around 1/2 pound) semi-mature cheese (I used cheddar)
2 eggs
50 g (almost 2 oz) tomato puree or ketchup (I used tomato paste)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
For the broth:

Add the beet, finely chopped, and the vinegar and egg white to the stock. Place over low heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add the cayenne and sugar and simmer another 5-7 minutes. Skim off any fat (if using meat stock) then run through a sieve (I lined mine with cheesecloth).

For the toast:

Heat the oven to 180 celsius or 360 Fahrenheit. Cut the bread into rectangular slices and fry in some butter. Grate the cheese and mix it with the tomato concoction of choice, eggs, butter and cayenne. Spread on the fried bread and bake in oven 10-12 minutes. Serve with the broth. Dip it. Dip it good.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip on bread. Dip in bowl. Dip da dip dip dippity do

6 Apr

20130921-115716.jpg

Ohhhh my goodness. I am finally done with the season of Girls on GIRLS. Although we will be rolling out cocktail-making segments soon.
And in between doing a bunch of live shows that ran the gamut from improv to sketch to contortion for comedy, I decided to pull out some of the posts I had had in my drafts for a while. This is one of them. A recipe I’ve enjoyed enough to make more than once. That’s a big compliment from me because having to vet new cookbooks leaves little time for old favorites. The genius work of Joy the Baker keeps me coming back.

Here’s the deal:
I LOVE a sandwich. I cannot dislike anything involving ample carbohydrates.

Here’s the other deal with a sandwich though:
I only love it if I can eat it on a plate with a knife and fork so I can deconstruct and reconstruct as I like. Here, a bite of the whole sandwich, there, a forkful of filling. Then a leftover bit of bread from where I swiped the filling. That I may butter.

The third and final deal with a sandwich is that I rarely actually eat things that are supposed to be served on carbs ON the said carbs. I devour bowls of spicy salsa with a spoon pretty much daily. It is not so different from gazpacho right? Then I butter the chips.
And I rarely eat the cheese on cheese plates atop the slices of baguette that come with it. I nibble each bit of fromage individually. The better to really taste the cheese, my dear. Then I butter the baguette.

So I made this dip and enjoyed deconstructing a sandwich made with it, and still had leftover dip to gobble from a bowl. And at some point I ran out of bread but I always keep back-up butter.

Take home lesson from this blog post is this: ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP BUTTER.

Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip/Spread adapted from this recipe by Joy the Baker
Olive oil spray
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
A few handfuls if baby spinach
2 pieces of whole wheat bread
1 Tbsp. cream cheese
2 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded
3/4 c. Chopped artichoke hearts
Pinch of fleur de sel
1 heaping Tbsp. Cottage cheese, mashed with a fork until relatively smooth
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
Butter
Spray a pan with the oil and sauté the garlic a bit then add the spinach, an cook just until wilted. Take off heat. Spread the bread slices with the cream cheese. Stir together the spinach mixture, Swiss cheese, artichoke hearts, fleur de sel, cottage cheese, and Sriracha. Heap as much as you want on top of cream cheese on one piece of bread, (save the rest for another sandwich, or if you are like me, eating out of a bowl) and top with other slice of bread, cream cheese side down. Spread outside of sandwich with butter and cook Ina skillet on each side until browned to your liking. Because it is all about you.

Pie parties, horchata cocktails, and what the hell am I doing?

8 Apr

Goth-chata

Goth-chata

Firstly, I devised the horchata cocktail. Me. Moi. Then literally a few weeks after I came up with it the recipe I’m going to share, a new trendy restaurant called Gracias Madre opened and everyone is talking about their horchata cocktail. But mine is better. And…goth-er. Which is to say I made my own horchata OUT OF BLACK RICE.

I devised the horchata cocktail for a pie party. Details to follow the following brain hemorrhage:

In between planning amazing pie parties like the one I shall regale you with tales of, I am pretty busy as an actor. I’ve been having a boatload of improv shows every
week, but in between all the performing I see the rest of the world, the people with real jobs wondering what the heck I do all day. And when asked on the spot I stammer and can’t quite remember it all because it’s a lot and so I come off as…I dunno. A not-busy person. God forbid. So I’m gonna tell you today’s activities (which now was a week ago). First off, I open up my laptop and email like a madwoman. Then I check the breakdowns to submit myself for roles that if I’m lucky I get called in to audition for. After fielding my email the breakdowns are my first stop. I go back to email and breakdowns a dozen times a day. Then I had an audition. This one was not too far, and it was in the golden hour when traffic is less horrible, so it didn’t take long. But between traffic and depending on how behind the casting office is running, an audition will bite several hours out of your day. Not counting all the prep time for it. After my audition I worked on scripts for another couple of upcoming auditions. What’s my motivation? No, really. What is it? Then I researched agents (I’m trying to find a new one) and wrote the perfect cover letter to send to one particular agent. This took a while. More work on scripts. What are my obstacles? Then I worked on the column I write for Hello Giggles. Then I updated my website with info on upcoming shows I’m doing and who my manager is because it just changed. Then I got in touch with a headshot photographer because I need new shots. Next I need to put the finishing touches on a pilot script I want to enter in a contest. And then I get to have late night coffee or who-am-I-kidding wine with a friend I want to collaborate with on a project. Because in LA your friends and the people you work are often one and the same. Which is both good and bad. Many evenings I’d be headed off to a class or a workshop or a practice or to do a show (after which there may or may not be wine) but tonight I get to skip to the wine.
And that, folks, is how I have “no job”.

And of course, there are the pie parties.

The last one was “Dark Side of the Pie” and took place right after Valentine’s Day as a palate cleanser. I made horchata with black rice, and designed a cocktail using it. I made a dark chocolate tart (recipe to come at a later date). Because I am still trying to perfect a southwest potato pie I made that but used purple potatoes to add some darkness. Guests were instructed to try to where black and red. Not all my friends came through on the attire, but many did bring red wines with delightfully goth labels.

It was pretty swell. Really, I am not sure where I’d be without my friends. Either slightly crazier or saner?

This cocktail had two variations for the party, but my friend Joel brought me a bottle of cinnamon liqueur that I later plan to use to create a third variation. Cinnamon liqueur was probably invented for the purpose of boozifying horchata.

Cocktails from the Dark Side: Amaretto and Chocolate
For horchata (adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe here)
2/3 cups black rice, ground in the blender
3 cups warm water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups almond milk (chocolate almond milk for the Kahlua version)
Soak the rice and cinnamon in water for a minimum of eight hours in the fridge. Remove cinnamon. Stick an immersion blender in there and blend more. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth twice. Add sugar and milk. Refrigerate.
For cocktail:
1 oz. black rice horchata
1 oz. rum (light or spiced, take your pick)
3/4 oz. amaretto (or 1/2 oz. Kahlua if you made the horchata with chocolate almond milk)
a few dashes of chocolate chili bitters
cinnamon to garnish
Shake all except the cinnamon up. Strain over one giant cube. Garnish with cinnamon. Sigh in delight. Then sigh with great melodramatic tones. Nowwwwwww you’re doing goth right.

Thyme and Thyme Again AGAIN

21 Feb

20140215-175328.jpg

I first posted my version of this Bon Appetit recipe for Sunnyside Up Eggs with Mustard Creamed Spinach and Crispy Crumbs on the Gruel back when I started the blog. That was when I was using the Gruel largely as a way to keep track of the recipes I tried. My photography was even more terrible than it is now.
I remember loving this recipe, and thought it was a timely time for a recipe with thyme. And time for a recipe redo. With better pictures. And I will actually type out the recipe for what I made. Glory! Fun times. Good thyme. And I added some more spiciness.

Plus a version that is chilled and mixed with a chopped hard-boiled egg. Sort of an egg-vegetable-panzanella type thang.

20140215-175355.jpg
I like that variation with some salsa or tomato sauce on the side. And truffle salt makes anything amazing. It’s almost cheating.
I am up to all sorts of nefarious acting and writing and writing for acting projects I must go work on so I am not going to go on. But just know that busy as I am, I made time for you. And thyme for you. Times two.
Kisses, dahhhlings!
Sunnyside Up Eggs on Spicy Mustard Creamed Spinach with Crispy Crumbs adapted from Bon Appetit and the Panzanella Variation
1 slice of wheat bread, crumbled roughly
olive oil spray
5 tsp. wasabi mustard, divided
1 bunch flat leaf spinach, washed and loosely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped canned green chiles
3 Tbsp. plain almond milk
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. powdered dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, one to be fried or poached, one already hard-boiled
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spritz the breadcrumbs with olive oil and toss with 2 tsp. of the mustard. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 5-8 minutes.
Add a bit of water to a large pan and sauté the spinach just to wilt it. Take off heat and squeeze extra water out. Put in a small saucepan with the remaining mustard, green chilis, almond milk and thyme. Stir until medium heat until thick. Crank in some fresh pepper.
Now the fun. Divide both the spinach and crumbs in half adding half of each to a bowl with the chopped hard-boiled egg. Mix that and stick in the fridge to chill. Take the other half of the spinach mix, reheat as necessary. meanwhile, fry that egg. Toss the egg on top of the spinach then crumble on the crumb-age. Who knew you had thyme and time for two dishes?

Croque Ellen

29 Aug

20130829-163840.jpg
I really should remake this on another (cooler) day and post a better picture.

Problem was the yolk broke when I cracked the egg so I didn’t get that nice egg shot with the yolk standing up looking all pert and sassy. It still looks pretty sexy though, flowing out into the chasm created when I sliced into the sandwich. And dipped in salsa, who cares what it looks like? Tastes perfect.

It is my birthday, and being as such I giving myself the present of naming a sandwich I invented myself after myself.

I’m so generous.

I actually woke up one morning thinking of this sandwich. THAT was a new one. I wasn’t even hungry.

I was just coming to, rolling about in my bed as I do and thinking about the Croque Madame I made, and how it would use up at least one of my eggs before they went bad. But I was also thinking spicy. And thus was born this southwest-ish version. Call the tex-mex Croque. Call it the Croque Ellen.

And now, my dears, I will not even attempt to amuse you anymore as I must scurry off to Lock and Key and have toast to me. Bourbon time.

This is not so much a recipe as a recommended assemblage.
The Croque Ellen
2 pieces of bread
About an ounce of cheese
Salsa
Cilantro
Baby spinach
Egg
Toast yer bread. Layer salsa, cilantro, spinach and cheese as you see fit. If you don’t care for bread that is te least bit soggy be careful with the salsa, or maybe wait and just add on the side later. Cut a circle out of top slice but leave it in place for now. Put some cheese on top. Put it in the oven broiler for about two seconds to melt. Take the circle out and crack an egg in there. Broil until done. Or be like me and realize everything else is going to burn before the egg is done as I’d like. Put in microwave to finish cooking. Yea. So good.

Gazpacho and

22 Aug

20130720-145456.jpg

Yeeeeaaaaah summer food. This is worth it. Worth buying the fresh herbs. Worth getting good feta.

And you can even make it with a handicapped right arm, if you have a food processor. Although to be honest I made this about a month ago.

And hey, you will probably have leftover V-8 so there may be a Bloody Mary in your future.

Here’s the update on my arm. I had a follow-up appointment and was told that apparently they took all the metal out. That complicated matrix of plates and pins I thought was holding me together is no more. The bionic arm is no more.

On one hand I feel bereft. The last three years it has been like a shield. A guardian. Don’t fuck with my arm, it’s full of metal.

On the other hand, I feel reborn. With the guidance of that metal, my bones knit themselves back together. I no longer need that metal. The baggage is gone. My bones are stronger than their technology.

My arm is all MINE again.

On the imaginary third hand. The “it was surgery, not a suicide attempt” scar that had faded so nicely over the years will be back, and probably a bit bigger.

I’ll just look at that as a badge of honor.

Food!

Daphne Oz’s book, “Relish” is both adorable and obnoxious. If you have time to curate your closet, good for you. Goooood for you.

I lie. I totally curate.

I curated the shit out of that metal in my arm.

Watermelon and Jalapeño Gazpacho with feta adapted from Daphne Oz’s Relish
1 big chopped tomato (1 1/2-ish cups)
1 heaping cup chopped watermelon
1 peeled, chopped cucumber
2 Tbsp. jarred pickled jalapeño slices
1/4 c. chopped shallot
Juice of one lime
2 Tbsp. parsley
2 Tbsp. mint
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. V-8
Pinch kosher salt
Garnishes
Feta
Hot sauce (Chipotle Tabasco!)
Vegan Worcestershire
Combine all but the garnishes in the food processor. Make as thick and chunky or thin and blended as you like. Garnish with the fixings. I didn’t think it needed almost any of the hot sauce or Worcestershire but they play well with the feta.

Get naked

18 Jul

20130412-141023.jpg

And be a hot tamale.

A naked one.

These poor tamales lost their britches.

And by britches I mean corn husks.

Don’t we all?

But deep down we all know what matters is on the inside of our britches.

Meow!

20130412-141102.jpg
My insides are full of spicy things, y’all.

Actually, I am going to be vulnerable and emotionally naked here for a minute. 2013 has been marvelously exciting and full of progress, but all that advancement did not seem to be leading anywhere. For all my auditions on the lot that got my hopes up came the realization that I didn’t get those jobs. For all baller improv shows with my new group, I still have plenty of times I royally flounder and I wonder what the heckums makes me think I should be on stage.

I hadn’t heard from my editors with a restaurant review assignment.

I found out the bionic arm needs surgery against due to a slipped plate. Taking care of that one in a few weeks before my tendon ruptures.
Life, schmife.

Then in one fell swoop I book work I can’t yet tell you about, get another writing assignment, my improv group earns double the stage time we were getting at the Neon Venus…I feel prettyyyyyyyyy!

Though my bionic wrist still hurts like a mofo. You can’t win em’ all.

But you can make love without your britches, which is Ellen-ese for make tamales without husks.

Just do it. Get naked and do it.

Naked Tamales with Chili Cheese Filling
Olive oil spray
1/4 cup chopped onion
Pinch sugar
1 Jarred roasted red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. canned diced green chiles
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. Masa Harina
2 Tbsp. frozen smart balance or butter (I was out of butter so I used balance. “Out of butter” is an affliction I hope to never have again)
1/2-3/4 c. Vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1 oz. cheese, shredded
Cilantro and salsa, to serve
Spray a skillet with olive oil spray. Cook onion, stirring, on medium heat until it starts to brown, add sugar and cook, stirring, until a bit more browned, then add peppers, chiles, salt and pepper and cook a couple minutes longer, stirring. Take off heat.
Put yer masa in the food processor, turn it on then drizzle in broth, then add smart balance (or butterrrrrrrr!), baking powder and salt and pulse. Add more liquid if needed to get a thick batter.
Spray a couple ramekins with non-sticky spray. Fill a third full with batter, then cheese, then add filling, then add the rest of the batter. Cover ramekins with foil, put in a pan. Fill pan with water halfway up the sides of ramekins. Put it all in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. Depends on your oven. Keep an eye. When masa is pulling away from the ramekin sides it should be decent.
Eat. Be naked. Not at the same time.