Friday, June 29, 2012

Almost Swedish Meatballs

No this is not a reference to Bill Murry's nationality or his movie career.  Rather, Jen and I were inspired to whip up this recipe after watching one of our favorite Swedish Chefs.  No...not this one:

Though he rocks in the kitchen as well, I'm told.  It was another awesome Swede that we were inspired by:

While we have a slightly different cooking style than the gentleman above (his style requires several sedatives and mood levelers to calm him before filming, I've heard) we were still inspired to whip our own version of said dish.  It's simple and filling.  Meat and gravy.  I would suggest adding some greenery to your plate in the form of a salad or vegetables but I'm not here to be your mommy so do whatever you like!

To accompany a Swedish culinary delight, we of course rock out to our favorite Swedish band.  But since I couldn't find my Abba cassettes we decided to listen to our second favorite Swedish band and went for Millencolin, a personal favorite since my high school days.  And since we had been inspired by Regular Ordinary Swedish Mealtime but didn't copy their recipe exactly, there is no Millencolin song more appropriate than "No Cigar"  Somehow "Dancing Queen" didn't exactly fit with this recipe... - justin

(On a side note, we changed the name from Swedish Meatballs to Almost Swedish Meatballs because my good friend, John Andersson, who is from Sweden, had this to say about our recipe: "Oh dear... if only you knew a swede who could set you straight... OK, these are, possibly, meatballs. If you want them Swedish style, you must serve the meatballs with potatoes or mashed potatoes. Any thing else is heresy. Also heresy: not including THE most important garnish: lingonberry jam. In Swedish homes or swedish restaurants you will not be able to find meatballs without potatoes and lingonberries on the same plate. I'm sorry, but on behalf of the entire Swedish population, I cannot approve of this. Meatballs: yes. Swedish meatballs: NO. Sorry."  Hahah!) -jen

Swedish Meatballs
Time: 45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 4-6
  •  2 slices Rye bread (any bread will do but I like the flavor the Rye bread lends)
  •  1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt plus 1 pinch (for sweating onions)
  • 1 1/4 lbs ground beef (we used ground chuck cause it tastes good!)
  • 1 1/4 lbs ground pork
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  It will be used to keep meatballs warmed after browning.

Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small bowl with the milk and set aside to soak.

In a skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium high heat.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the bread and milk mixture, ground beef, pork, egg yolks, 2 tsp salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions.  Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Roll portions into golf ball sized balls, about an ounce if you want to get all nerdy and weigh stuff out.  Heat the last 2 tbsp of butter in your onion skillet over medium-low heat and saute meatballs until they have browned on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the meatballs from the heat and place on a sheet pan in the heated oven while we make the gravy.

Decrease the heat on the skillet to low and add the flour.  Whisk until the flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Gradually add the beef stock and keep whisking until it thickens.  Add the cream and cook until the gravy reaches the desires consistency.  Remove meatballs from oven, smother with gravy, and serve with some rice, potatoes, barley or what have you and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Cabbage

I'm not really sure why I wanted to do some stuffed cabbage lately but it's been on my mind.  Makes sense.  It's a completely NorCal summer dish, right?  My heritage has nothing to do with Eastern Europe, where the dish is believed to have originated, and we have no Jewish ancestry, also associated with the origins of this dish.  However, I do recall my mother preparing this a couple of times in my youth, and I remember disliking cabbage in general, so I wanted to give it a go with my big boy taste buds and see what came of it.

I believe it was a success!  It's a bit intense to put it together but well worth it in my opinion.  Clear a couple hours from your afternoon, if you can, and give it the attention it deserves and you shall be rewarded for your efforts.  If you find you want a quick recipe, this is not for you.  If you want comfort food tastiness however, that's another story all together.

To accompany this cooking adventure I had some Stiff Little Fingers on the laptop.  Referred to in their inception as the Irish Clash, they faded from the scene in the early 80's and yet, I still find myself singing little snatches of songs here and there when I'm working.  So it seemed apropos to have some playing while I slaved away in a hot kitchen on a hot summer evening cause if that isn't work, i don't know what is. -justin

Stuffed Cabbage
Time: 2 1/2 hrs
Difficulty: Medium
Serves: 6-8

Wild Rice (for filling)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup wild rice
Bring water and salt to a boil and add the rice.  Return to boil and reduce to simmer until grains are tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain in small mesh colander and set aside to cool.

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow or white onion
  • 2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in large saucepan or dutch oven, add onions and sweat over medium low heat till translucent, roughly 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, vinegar, vermouth, brown sugar, raisins, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow or white onion
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice (see previous instructions on prep)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Combine everything in a large bowl.

  •  1 head green or Savoy cabbage, cored
  • enough water to cover cabbage in a large saucepot or dutch oven
Boil your water and  while you are waiting for that to happen you can core your cabbage (and make sauce and filling if you're awesome at multitasking).  Simply, use a sharp paring knife to cut the stem core out of the bottom of the head of cabbage.  Place the head of cabbage in the water after it boils and simmer for 3 minutes or so, until the outer leaves begin to become pliable.  Remove them with tongs (the water is boiling, remember?) and set aside to cool.  When all useable leaves are removed (the center or heart of the head isn't much good for rolling) cut the rib out of each leaf to make it easy to roll.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of an 11x15, glass baking dish with a couple of ladles of sauce so the rolls don't stick or burn.  Place roughly 1/2 cup of filling, molded into a cylinder, at the top of a cabbage leaf.  Roll the "log" toward the stem part of the leaf, folding in the sides as you go.  Place the rolls in the dish, they can be touching, and cover with the remaining sauce (uncovered cabbage will dry out as it cooks in the oven, not yummy!).  Cook, uncovered for 1 hr.  Let it rest for 5-7 minutes before serving with a healthy ladle of sauce.  One or two of these are very filling!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Italian Chopped Salad with Dressing

In keeping with Justin's summer theme on the last post, I made this fantastic summery vegetable salad with a homemade Italian dressing.  I'd been feeling like raw veggies lately, and one thing with veggie salad is that it's usually cut into large pieces that you can fit two, maybe three veggies on the fork.  I wanted this salad chopped a little smaller so that I got all the flavours with every bite.  It reminds me of a large-chopped relish.  But it was really good... especially after it sat refrigerated overnight.  And it's versatile!  The first night, we just ate it in a bowl.  The next night, we sprinkled it onto lettuce greens.  I was thinking it might be tasty warmed and served on crustini, too!

When we make olive oil and vinegar based dressings, we usually just whisk all the ingredients together and you get big bits of dried herbs.  It's always good, but I was thinking about the dressing packets you can buy at the store, so I took all my dry dressing ingredients and blended them into a fine powder with our herb grinder and then used the stick blender to blend it into the oil. It came out good, so you could do it that way... but for the ease of those without herb grinders or stick blenders, I posted regular blender instructions

As soon as I started thinking about posting this salad as a summer salad, I got The Atari's "Boys of Summer" song stuck in my head.  Well really, it's Don Henley's song, I guess, but it's their version that got stuck on repeat.  It's a little poppy... but so was the original, and I still like that one too. :P  -jen

the Ataris - boys of summer by dairygalpal

Time:  15-20 minutes prep
Difficulty:  Can you handle a knife?
Serves:  About 6, as a side dish
  • 3 medium zucchinis (about 2 cups), large dice
  • 2 carrots, large dice
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 orange bell pepper, large dice
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms (about 7), large dice
  • 1 medium shallot, diced 
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups mozzarella (12oz), diced
  • 1/2 cup rough chopped green or kalamata olives 
  • 1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 can (15oz) red kidney beans
  • 3 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Italian Dressing (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup pepperoni, diced (optional)
Place all ingredients into a large bowl.  Toss with dressing.  Serve at room temp.
Note:  I'd have put some fresh herbs in this if I'd had any on hand, but since I didn't, I didn't want to put it in the recipe.  Maybe 1/4 cup chopped basil or flat leaf parsley.

Time:  7 minutes
Difficulty:  E-Z
Makes:  1.5 cups
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Accent or MSG (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
 In a blender, combine all dry ingredients and vinegars.  While blending, remove the middle spout of your lid (most blender lids have these) and very slowly drizzle in the olive oil so that ingredients emulsify.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Some Summer Sauciness

Jen and I love to try our own BBQ sauces and whatnot as it gives us a chance to learn how to make something we love and it let's us tailor them to our specific likes.  I've played around with a few different "styles" of BBQ and have always had a fondness for fruit sauces that have heat!  I've done some lime chipotle, a few blackberry ones, a blueberry, as well as various vinegar bases and tomato bases, different types of booze to flavor them, and fresh vs dried/powdered ingredients.  This time, I felt like trying to recreate a Raspberry Chipotle that I had years ago.  It came out sweet and smokey with a long slow burn that isn't too strong at all.  Exactly what I was going for!

In addition to BBQ sauce, I recently tried my hand at a mustard dill sauce.  There's a local company here that sells one that residents rave about and it seemed simple enough to mimic the flavors.  It's sweet, sour, and has a strong herbiness to it that regular mustard doesn't have.  Some folks don't dig curry (and I respect that) so just leave the seasonings out if you prefer something like a dill/honey/mustard sauce.  This would go well on a sandwich, or on a bagel with cream cheese, in a wrap, in potato/egg/pasta salad, or whisk with a little olive oil for a quick salad dressing.

Lately, I've been listening to some hardcore punk, some gutter stuff, and some real garage sounding stuff.  During this cooking session, I happened to be blasting some early AFI (whom I've always had a soft spot for because of my high school days and having grown up around various band members) back before they had developed their popular sound and style and thinking that they were absolutely the first punk performance I'd ever seen.  I remember watching them in '93 at the small amphitheater in Low Gap Park and wondering if they'd ever make it big.  Makes me feel glad to have heard them practicing in garages and playing high school parties and stuff back in my youth before they got so big.  Anyway, so here's one of their songs off their first full album Answer That And Stay Fashionable called "Rizzo In The Box". - justin

Mustard Dill Sauce
Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: A five year old could do it
Makes: 1 3/4 cups sauce
  • 1 cup yellow mustard (I used French's but feel free to use stoneground, dijon or whatever you desire)
  • 3/4 cup honey or dark agave necter
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp lemongrass powder or ground coriander
Here's the tricky part.  Just mix it all together.   Store in the fridge or use right away.

Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Time: 45min
Difficulty: Medium
Makes: Roughly a quart
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 oz fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp amaretto (or other booze if you like)
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp Chipotles in Adobo, pureed 
  • 10 oz Raspberry preserves
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan heat oil over medium heat and add shallot, garlic and raspberry when hot.  Sweat until shallot is translucent and raspberries break down, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add sugar, vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, amaretto, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, allspice, tomato paste, and chipotles.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Add the raspberry preserves and simmer an additional 10-15 minutes, or until desired thickness is reached.  Puree for a smooth consistency.  Strain through a colander with small mesh if you don't like the seeds.  Refrigerate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Poppers Part I: Creamy Chorizo Poppers & Pepperoni with Mozzarella Poppers

A couple of days ago, I was messaging online with my older brother Chris, and he was telling me how he was going to make homemade jalapeño poppers on the grill whilst camping.  We started throwing a ton of ideas back and forth and it just made me crave poppers!  Since we're trying to eat a little more low-carb (but still make some good grub), we thought these would be great to incorporate into the weekly menu.  I took the list that my brother and I had come up with, wrote them all down, then Justin and I added some more ideas.  So we're on a popper kick and thought they'd be fun to share as we made them.

They were way good.  Surprisingly cheap, fast, and easy... three very awesome things to find all at once in a good food!  I highly recommend using gloves while you hollow out the jalapeños.  Sometimes I like to think I'm tough and don't need gloves, and then I take my contacts out with my oil-coated fingers.  When I go to put them back on my eyeballs the next morning, I end up looking like a stoned Popeye as my sockets burst into flames and have muscle seizures.  So gloves are good, that's all I'm sayin'.

Listening to a little Youth Brigade performing "Violence"  Warning - stage diving runs rampant.  -jen

Time: 15 minutes prep, 15-20 minutes cook time
Difficulty: Super Mega Kinka Easy (but dangerous without gloves, ooooh danger!)
Makes:  30 poppers 

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack or sharp Cheddar (I used a smokehouse onion cheddar!)
  • 5 ounces chorizo (Mexican sausage) 
  • 15 large jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil.

In a medium bowl, combine softened cream cheese and shredded cheese.

In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, cook chorizo for about 5 minutes, or until done.  Using a slotted spoon so that the grease drains from it, transfer chorizo into cream cheese mix and combine.

Slice jalapeños in half length-wise to make "boats" and remove membrane and seeds.  Fill with  creamy chorizo mixture just until it reaches the edges.  Do not mound.  Place onto greased baking sheet.

In a small dish, toss the panko in the melted butter until evenly coated.  Sprinkle a generous layer over the tops of the peppers.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until panko is golden brown on top.

Time:  12 minutes prep, 15-20 minutes cook time
Difficulty:  Still Super Mega Kinka Easy
Makes:  30 poppers
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 15 large jalapeños
  • 1/4 cup finely diced pepperoni
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil.

Toss Italian seasoning with shredded mozzarella.  Slice jalapeños in half length-wise to make "boats" and remove membrane and seeds.  Sprinkle half of the pepperoni into the jalapeño halves.  Grab about 2 tablespoons of the cheese and form into a quenelle (like a long football-shape) with your palm and the quenelles should sit right in the jalapeño boat on top of the pepperoni.  Sprinkle the remaining pepperoni across the tops.  Place on greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and peppers are cooked.