RSS Feed

‘Vegetarian (or Potentially So)’ Category

  1. Lady Bird’s Bird Sauce

    May 18, 2011 by Cas

    Actually, this works well on birds, pigs, cows, turkeys, tofus — anything you have roaming around the farm and want to slaughter, slice and serve.

    President Johnson and his family were good ol’ Texas folk. Up here in the North, we think of barbecue sauce as a sweet, thick condiment akin to a browner, sweeter, smokier ketchup.

    Not down there, y’all.

    Buttery and spicy and acidic; THOSE are the hallmarks of a good down-home bar-bee-kyoo. And it’s usually thin enough that it can really soak into meat, which further allows it to tenderize and infusicize and flavortize even the cheapest, slow-cooked cuts of meat.

    I can’t wait to use this in a pulled pork dish, which of course I’ll report here in full. But keep this one handy for a my next “Meet the Lady” dish, and make plenty to refrigerate or freeze and keep on hand.

    I did modify it with a bit of thickening so it can be used more easily and with less need for something to sop it up (read: BISCUITS), but it’s pretty true to the Lady’s old standard, and once you taste it you’ll say “oh… NOW I get it!” and it will quickly become a totally different animal in your culinary vernacular than Open Pit or Heinz.

    1 Stick unsalted butter

    1/2 Cup tomato ketchup
    1/2 Cup worcestershire sauce (or try our Vegan Worcestershire)
    1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 Cup lemon juice
    2 Cloves garlic, crushed or chopped (or 2 tsps. jarred)
    Dash of Tabasco sauce or dried cayenne pepper, to taste
    Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

    1 Tbsp. flour
    2 Tbsp. cold water

    In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.

    In a separate bowl or liquid measure, combine remaining ingredients except flour and water.

    When butter is melted, whisk in liquid mixture, raise heat, and bring to a boil.

    Combine flour with water and mix into smooth paste. Reduce boiling sauce to medium heat, whisk in flour mixture, and allow sauce to boil 1 minute.

    Serve immediately, or remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, then store refrigerated in an air-tight container.

    Think of this as something you can use as a marinade (try chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin, or steak, left soaking in the sauce overnight in the refrigerator) and then the final sauce (if you use your marinade as the finished serving topping, ALWAYS cook it to the boil to remove any hazard of food-borne contamination after the meat is removed and cooked). Or add 1/4 – 1/2 cup and some crushed white bread or crumbs to a pound of ground beef for a supercharged burger, meatloaf or meatballs.

    Or just put a little pitcher of this out alongside your ketchup and mustard at a picnic or barbecue, and see which topping your guests rave about.

  2. Pomegranate Tiramisu

    May 10, 2011 by Cas

    From the “Meet the Lady” files…

    This recipe was created by me to fit the bill for the recent “Meet the Lady” performance (which, if you’ve not heard or read, is a monthly variety show that really rather defies description), titled “Death and the Maiden”.

    I toiled with possible ideas that had to do with death and maidens, figuring most easily that a “death by chocolate” offering would at least use one of the title words. Then lady fingers came into the thought process because, well, if you dismembered a maiden you’d have two byproducts: death, most notably, and lady parts — including, but not limited to, her fingers.

    Lady fingers naturally led to Tiramisu fantasies, but I didn’t want to go the traditional route. And after discussing it and brainstorming, I got smacked in the back of the head with the realization that the mythical Persephone — a maiden — kidnapped as she was by Hades — who, by way of his being the god of the underworld, was death its very self in semi-human form — ate nothing but pomegranate seeds during her detainment in hell.

    If this doesn’t spell fucking dessert, I don’t know what does.

    Herewith, my scaled-down recipe (in scope, not in structure or composition; I doubt you’ll need to serve 75 people with yours, though even at half-size this will serve a small army). You can pare it down even further if you feel such need, or instead of making it into one big sheet cake, assemble several smaller ones (I found this worked BEAUTIFULLY in loaf pans) and send them straight to the freezer for future enjoyment.

    A few other flexible considerations: I made mine in a full-size deep steam table pan for presentation and food service purposes. These things measure roughly 20 x 10 x 3.5”, but you can use the smaller (12 x 9 x 2.5”) disposable aluminum half-pans for this recipe, or as stated above, any other configuration of sizes that suit your needs. If you want to unmold it and slice it after freezing, line your pans first with cellophane wrap. After just a minute or two out of the ice box, you’ll be able to lift it out of the pan (perhaps with the help of a hungry friend) by the ends of the cellophane, place it on a cutting board, and have at it. Tres artistique, even weighing in as mine did at about eight pounds. This last conclusion required me getting on the scale both with and without the final dessert in my arms and subtracting the first weight from the laden number, which could have been quite a site, as I generally refuse to step on a scale until I’ve removed every last stitch of clothing including my socks, and spit out any spare saliva and shaved every last facial hair so NOTHING will add even a bazillionth of an ounce to my readout, lest I suffer a deep fit of depression. And being depressed when you’re holding what turns out to be 8 pounds of really good cake is a recipe for emotion-eating disaster. But I staved off the need to feel slimmer than normal in light of the facts that (a) I was mid-movie shoot that week, and thus had to maintain a larger-than-usual mane of face-hair for my role; (b) spitting near food meant for others would be gross; (c) being naked around the same food would be even grosser; and (d) the tile floor in my bathroom could be a bit chilly, so why risk taking off my socks?

    Socks, spitting, scanty clothing — nothing could have made this less enjoyable. The audience that night devoured what was served to them, and all but attacked the leftovers on the way out of the theater. I had sent samples of this creation to my usual team of taste-testers for input as part of the development process, and perhaps the most poignant and fitting critique came from my dear Mom who, just having started a new diet regimen, had the following to say during our brief check-in on the phone:

    “Hello. This is your mother. Fuck Weight Watchers, and Fuck You.”

    I love you, Mom. And not just because you loved this surprising new take on an old favorite.

    60 Lady Finger cookies

    4 Cups Pomegranate juice
    1-½ Cups plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
    1 Packet unflavored gelatin

    4 Egg whites
    1 tsp. Cream of Tartar

    1 Cup Mascarpone cheese (or our substitute)
    3 Cups Crème Fraiche (try ours)

    1 Tbsp. Corn starch
    ¼ Cup water (or as needed)

    ½ Cup sliced almonds
    ¼ Cup Pomegranate seeds (or dried sweetened cranberries)

    Reserve 6 Lady Fingers for garnish.

    In a saucepan, mix pomegranate juice with 1-½ cups sugar, and sprinkle gelatin on top. Stir or whisk until gelatin is dissolved with no lumps remaining. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar and gelatin are fully dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to boil, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set saucepan into a larger bowl filled with cold water. Stir frequently and change cold water bath often, allowing juice reduction to cool as close to room temperature as possible.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer or with electric beaters, whip egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Remove to a separate, clean mixing bowl (preferably chilled in the freezer) and set aside.

    In stand mixer or large mixing bowl with electric beaters, mix mascarpone with 1-½ cups of cooled juice reduction until well blended. Beat on medium-high for one minute. Add 1 cup of the crème fraiche and blend until smooth. Finally, fold in beaten egg whites, half at a time, just until fully incorporated.

    Assembling the tiramisu: Here’s where Food Daddy starts getting anal (but this works easiest, so just shut up and do as I say. Love you!). On your prep surface, set your plate or bowl of unpackaged lady fingers (you don’t want to be messing with cellophane and plastic bags and such mid-project here); next to that, set your remaining juice reduction; and next to that, set your cake pan.

    Working from left to right (or for my Hebrew or dyslexic foodies, right to left), dip a lady finger lightly in the juice by placing it on the liquid’s surface, flipping it over with your fingers, then removing it by hand and placing it in the cake pan. Working quickly, repeat this process, building a tightly packed layer of side-by-side, row-by-row, lightly soaked lady fingers on the bottom of the pan. Nobody will see the inside of the tiramisu in its entirety, so if to make a uniform layer with few gaps you need to rip a finger here or stuff a finger there, I won’t tell a soul if you have to be a bit forceful or creative.

    Spoon half of the pomegranate mousse mixture over the bottom layer of lady fingers. Using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, spread the mixture evenly. Lift the pan and drop it gently a few times on your work surface, just to make sure all the gaps are filled and big air bubbles are removed.

    Repeat with a second layer of dipped lady fingers, and then a second layer of pomegranate mousse, again tamping pan to release air bubbles and distribute the filling evenly. Top with one final layer of dipped lady fingers.

    Spread the top with the remaining 2 cups of crème fraiche, tamp pan to settle the layers, and set aside.

    Pour remaining juice mixture into a measuring cup, and add enough of the water, if needed, to make 1 cup of liquid. Return to saucepan, and stir in the corn starch and the remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar until starch is dissolved. Place pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil to thicken. Remove from heat.

    In a food processor or with a cutting board and knife, coarsely chop the almonds and the fruit, then add the reserved lady fingers and pulse (or chop and crumble) until the whole thing looks like somebody pawed at a poor helpless berry-nut muffin until there were no big chunks left.

    Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the tiramisu. Drizzle with the pomegranate syrup mixture.

    Chill tiramisu at least 2 hours in refrigerator before serving. For overnight storage or longer, cover with cellophane wrap gently pressed against the top surface.

    This will “cure” and the flavors will blend and the whole combination really pull together if left refrigerated for two days. For storage beyond that or to deal with leftovers, this freezes BEAUTIFULLY. Just allow to come to room temperature before serving, or enjoy it “semi freddo” by removing from freezer and slicing wide, inch-thick slices, laying each on its side on individual serving plates and eating it cold and firm. A dollop of additional crème fraiche and a sprinkling of chopped almonds (did I hear someone say “mint sprig”?) sure would make this anything but a “leftover” dessert.

  3. I.C.B.I.N…. Creme Fraiche

    April 22, 2011 by Cas

    OK, so out of the box I will admit that this isn’t ENTIRELY an ICBIN in the truest sense of the made-up non-word.

    But it’s a “home-made versus store-bought” swap that makes a world of difference, and that DOES have an ICBIN component to it.

    True Creme Fraiche should have TWO ingredients, as we have here: equal parts of heavy whipping cream and full-fat sour cream. The third ingredient is TIME, because the best way to make this is to put it up at room temperature or higher (I set my oven to just about 125° and leave a note to remind myself and anyone who might accidentally give it a pre-heat thinking it’s empty) that it’s in there. Or you can leave it on the counter covered with a clean tea towel, but you have to give it room to breathe and grow because the live cultures in the sour cream are hard at work.

    Creme fraiche will increase in volume as it cultures, but I like to give it a bit more rise by whipping the ingredients together versus just mixing them. It will stiffen substantially and become more of a soft whipped cream with a bit of a tang to it, and oh my gosh I am doing a crappy job of describing the taste because you have to taste it to understand.

    Like mascarpone (or our ICBIN swap) it is oh-so versatile and oh-so difficult not to just eat with a spoon right there. I find that if I have a batch, I prefer it to whipped cream as a topping because of its deeper character, and I prefer it to sour cream as a base for savory dips or as a potato topping because of its lighter, fluffier nature versus its soupier, sour-er cousin.

    And now, the long-awaited ICBIN: If you don’t have the time to let this thing sit around playing with itself and cloning and self-generating (I recommend 12 hours or overnight, and I know some chefs who will leave it for a full day, which I think is both obsessive and scary) there is a simple fix to make this ALMOST instantaneously gratifyingly available:

    Xanthan gum.

    If you don’t know xanthan gum and you don’t have any, virtually every natural and organic “health food” market carries it — probably Bob’s brand. It comes in a clear bag, like most gluten-free flours you’ll find alongside it on the shelf, and is a pale beige color.

    Xanthan gum is a naturally occurring spore, which is used commercially (and widely so — check your labels and you’ll see) as a natural emulsifier. I use it to thicken EVERYTHING, especially low- or non-fat salad dressings. It just bulks up liquids and a little goes a long way. A tablespoon in Gluten-free baking mimics the way gluten stretches and captures gases for a bigger “rise”, and it’s a pretty well-established standard for that purpose.

    Buy a bag, keep it sealed and away from moisture. It will keep for a long time in a container in your cupboard.

    What I did to make Creme Fraiche that was ready for use in our next dessert recipe in about an hour (actually it was ready sooner but I didn’t need it as quickly as I’d thought) was to begin whipping the creams together, and once blended, I added 1 tsp. of xanthan gum and then whipped for about a minute on medium high.

    The thickening is immediate, but just to give it a bit of culturing time (and the gum traps more of the bacterial farts that I’m sorry to say are what makes for fluffy fermentation) I set it in the warm oven while it waited for me to call it into action.

    It. Was. DIVINE.

    Have at it…

    1 Cup Heavy (whipping) cream
    1 Cup Sour cream

    Blend the two creams, then whip for one minute on medium high speed with hand beaters or in a stand mixer. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl and set to rest, on counter top or in lukewarm oven, for 12 hours. Refrigerate immediately after if you don’t use it immediately. It will firm up when cooled.

    Layered with fresh fruit with a hit of liqueur poured over it, this makes a really nice parfait, and it’s great to use in place of frosting for a lighter topping on a tea cake or soft cookie. I’m just sayin’…

  4. I.C.B.I.N…. Mascarpone Cheese

    April 21, 2011 by Cas

    Now, Food Daddy ain’t German — he’s Italian, through and through.

    But my newest acronym — “ICBIN” — sounds amazingly Teutonic, nein?

    Here, standing for our purposes for the familiar, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not…”, its other inspiration, the German “Ich Bin”, means “I Am”. And as we’re herewith referring to substitutes and stand-ins, it rather imparts an air of “Hey, I might not be the original but I sure as hell AM all that I’m cracked up to be!” Otherwise, the air might be one of apology: “Sorry I’m not what you expected. I shall try not to disappoint you too frigging much.”

    It’s a statement much more accurate than the one JFK made with the same Germanic phraseology, his announcement that he was a person from Berlin being widely held to quite accidentally assert instead, “I am a jelly donut.”

    Regardless, I’m introducing this first ICBIN — a cheaper solution to the store-bought variety, and an easier one to come by as the ingredients are even available at 7-11 or WaWa Markets in the middle of the night.

    I’ve played with many different “substitute” recipes and none quite pleased me as much as this creation of mine which incorporates elements of the best of them. The biggest help here is the addition of butter, which gives a creamy boost to the blend that really helps approximate the texture and triple-cream notes of traditional mascarpone. Just note that when chilled, this becomes rather firm because of the butter — delightful in its own right that way, but it will soften as it comes to room temperature, as well.

    Whip this up, and it’s ready to enjoy — as is, as the base for dips or spreads, or in recipes calling for mascarpone. And yes, you guessed it: this is timed to be at your beck and call when, in a matter of days, I will be posting a major dessert undertaking in which this will play a large role — so you may as well make a batch now, and have it handy so you can try your hand at what’s to follow.

    As for the cost savings, bear in mind that while the research I did was in no way scientific or highly quantified, the raw goods I used to make this brought my batch of homemade ICBIN Mascarpone in at LESS THAN HALF THE PRICE of one of the more inexpensive, widely available brands of pre-packed Mascarpone. Um… Wow, y’all…

    Herewith, the recipe. And it is so light and mildly flavored, I will put a few tips for serving down at the bottom that will give you some idea of its versatility. Make a batch and keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator. One of these days I’ll figure out low-fat version, but today that’s simply not my yob, mang!

    8 oz. Cream Cheese (not whipped)
    3 Tbsp. Sour Cream
    2 Tbsp. Heavy (whipping) Cream
    2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled slightly

    In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine first three ingredients. Beat on low speed until incorporated, then beat on high for one minute until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once.

    Beating on lowest speed, drizzle in melted butter until incorporated, then beat on high one additional minute.

    Yields about 1-1/2 cups.

    Use in place of traditional Mascarpone in your favorite recipe, place in a nonreactive, air-tight container and refrigerate, or try any of the following:

    - Spread on sliced rustic or Italian bread, with chopped chives, sliced green or black olives, coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
    - Dollop on brown bread slices with red onion, a sprinkle of dill and black pepper, and sliced smoked salmon.
    - Puree with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and crushed red pepper to taste for a savory tuscan spread for flat breads, crackers, and dipping vegetables.
    - Spread on fresh apple and pear slices, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
    - For a tasty departure from yogurt, add maple syrup, raisins, and finely chopped walnuts; or fresh blueberries or strawberries with a spoon of honey.
    - Spread lightly on slices of prosciutto, add a dried Turkish fig and a pecan half, and roll up for an amazing hors d’oeuvre.
    - Mix with crushed almonds and a dash of freshly grated lemon zest, and stuff into pitted Medjool dates.
    - Spoon onto toast points, and top with a dab of red or black caviar and capers.

    Omigosh… now I’m fucking starving…

  5. A Food Daddy Two-Fer: “Dream Duo” Granolas

    April 4, 2011 by Cas

    Now understand up front: the “Dream Duo” does not imply that these two snacks — one sweet, and one savory — are best served in combination. Their tastes are  not necessarily complementary, though in contrast to that statement I did indeed, while developing and living with these two recipes, alternate handfuls of each quite to my satisfaction.

    The “Dream” nature of the name itself comes from my involvement with a monthly live show called “Meet the Lady” which, if you follow me on Facebook, you have no doubt seen me pimp on a regular basis. It’s almost impossible to describe this program — a now year-old staple of the entertainment programming at 92Y Tribeca here in New York City — except to call it a Variety Show. But even that label fails it on so many levels because it is at once high brow and illuminating and excruciatingly intelligent, and on the other, downright hilarious and often shocking — with a stable of regulars and a host of guests, known far and wide from the stage and screen and various glittering circles of the pop culture and counter culture. So it’s not unlikely to find a cabaret sensation playing a homeless do-gooder trying to share her radishes with you if you look a bit peckish, sharing the play space with an infamous Hollywood drag queen and a celebrity cook book author. Likewise, the recording artist and Broadway actress may have to yield the spotlight to a burlesque queen in break-away Ms. Pacman garb gyrating cheekily as she pops marshmallows out of her g-string and into her mouth.

    In light of this last one, I’ve avoided marshmallows in these recipes just for mental-image sake…

    And as off the wall and uproariously tangential as this may all seem, “MTL” always has a core theme that is fully served by each of its participants’ contributions, be they pedantic or seemingly puerile.

    My own contribution this month, in the form of talking about these two recipes, was to address the foodie aspects of the night’s topic: Hollywood Dream Sequences.

    Creator/curator/host/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Tom Blunt — an extraordinary talent and thinker and collector of humanity and the stuff that falls out of humanity’s pockets when you hold it upside down by the ankles and shake it wildly — approached me after the Food Daddy blog started taking off and we discussed the potential for adding a cooking segment to the regular features of this highly irregular show. This was the segment’s first outing.

    And at first I was thinking “I could make just about ANYTHING and affix the word ‘Dream’ to it to keep on-theme.” I figured “Dream” was a culinary catch-all that just made mundane food sound like it might be special, in the same way recipes of yore often used the words “Supreme” and “Surprise”. So I was ready to take this low road, and join the ranks of “Tuna Supreme” and “Meatloaf Surprise” with something like “Rice Pudding Dream” or “Dream Casserole” or “Awesome Dream Toast on a Fucking Fabulous Dream Stick” — just to have something to talk about and offer as a palate-pleaser to the audience.

    And then one morning I awoke in a cold sweat with three transforming words on my tongue: “Dream-inducing foods.”

    So a bit of research — and I’ll run through this really quickly because I’ve droned on long enough to bore myself already — proved that indeed there is some nutritional science behind dreaming. In a nutshell, dreams are activated, made more vivid and focused, and are more memorable when our brain absorbs the neurotransmitter seratonin. But it has to be presented for uptake in a certain form and dietarily that comes about when tryptophan is modified by vitamin B6. So cutting to the chase, when foods with tons of tryptophan mix with foods with high levels of B6, the results can be — and a week of experimenting with these ingredients proved it to me personally — amazing.

    The highest dietary levels of tryptophan are, surprisingly, not found in turkey (we talk about the effects of the fowl because we OVER-indulge on Thanksgiving, and sure: near-seam-bursting ingestion of ANYTHING can make its nutritional density higher by sheer volume); cheddar cheese is the big winner. Poultry and salmon are also very high, as are eggs, all dairy, white rice, and whole grains and flours.

    Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include bananas and orange (concentrated, as in the frozen juice you need to water down), nuts and beans, again the eggs and the poultry, and carrots and leafy greens.

    So you wanna dream big? Make a cheddar and banana sandwich. Yum!


    What I did here to save us all from the kind of food combos that pregnant women have made famous (though pickles aren’t on the list, even if you consider ice cream to be peripherally dairy) is develop two granolas that combine foods high in both Tryptophan and B6, the savory one being more “T-Heavy” and the sweet, more “B-Heavy”.

    Try them both. At the very least they’re off the beaten path of what you normally find in the stale old box of granola on your grocer’s shelf. And they make a great snack, even when served instead of chips or nuts alongside cocktails.

    A note about the actual cooking process: there are two ways to go here, baking your granola forever at nearly undetectably low temperature, or baking it at higher temps requiring a lot of constant checking and stirring. I’m combining both methods here, with a moderate temp and moderate cook time, and you are advised, invited, and even implored to extend the time to make for a crunchier granola or keep it short and enjoy it chewier. Just know that the longer it sits around, the better it gets — but the more moisture you leave in the mix, the more it will benefit from storing in the fridge or freezer because it will, like any fresh-baked product, be more likely to “turn” if left to the atmosphere.

    For ease and searchability, I’m posting each recipe separately.You can find them on the blog as usual, or click here:

    7-Layer Fiesta Burrito Granola

    Orange-Banana Bread Granola

    Cook. Serve. Eat. And most of all…


  6. Orange-Banana Bread Granola

    April 4, 2011 by Cas

    A general rule with granola is you want to keep wet ingredients to between a cup, cup-and-a-half per 10 cups of dry ingredients, the bulk of which will be rolled oats.

    Here we push the wet a bit further, so a bit more baking time if you prefer your granola crunchier will be in order — and you will find humidity has a great deal of effect on the outcome as well, so use your instincts and your fingertips and teeth to guide you, ultimately.

    The things we add in here will come in stages: there are some things that go into the mix in the beginning and bake off the entire time. Others, such as raisins, will get too dry or too burnt if added at the outset, so we put those in toward the end.

    Another style choice that’s purely up to you, is chunky versus finer-grain. I prefer my granola bits about the size of popcorn in a sweet recipe (you’ll find this much more difficult without a sugary binder in the savory recipes) so I lay it in the baking pans and leave it alone until the last “check-in” when I add the final mix-ins and then finally toss it around a bit. This also lets the wetter parts get more exposed and dry more evenly.

    This is one of those baked items for which there is no exact science to share, so just stay on your toes (good for the ass muscles, as well) and allow your own brains and tastes to arbitrate.

    1 Quart orange juice
    2 Tbsp. lemon juice
    2 Cups sugar
    2 Large eggs
    2 Tbsp. corn starch

    Mix the fruit juices (reserving 1/4 Cup of orange juice) and powdered sugar in a saucepan, and boil to reduce liquid to about half (20 minutes). Remove from heat.

    In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 Cup of juice with the eggs and cornstarch, beating to combine thoroughly with a fork or whisk.

    Pour about 1/4 cup of the boiled juice mixture into the egg mixture in a steady stream as you continue to whisk; this will keep the eggs from scrambling when you add the mixture to the heated liquid. Now add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan, return to medium-high heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat.


    10 Cups dry oatmeal, old fashioned or quick
    1 Cup sunflower seeds
    1 Cup chopped walnuts
    5  Cups Rice Krispies cereal
    3 Large bananas, mashed
    1 Cup raisins
    1 Slice (5-6 oz.) pound cake, crumbled
    1 Cup powdered (confectioners) sugar

    Preheat oven to 300°.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, seeds, nuts, and 3 cups of the rice cereal. Add mashed banana and toss together. Finally, pour cooled orange juice and egg mixture over the dry ingredients and toss to coat thoroughly.

    Grease two roasting pans or baking sheets (or line with parchment paper) and transfer granola mix in two equal portions, spreading evenly by hand.

    Bake for 1 hour, alternating top and bottom rack pans half way through. After an hour, remove the granolas and transfer back into clean, large mixing bowl. Add remaining 2 cups of rice cereal, raisins, and crumbled pound cake and toss to incorporate. Transfer back to pans, reduce heat to 250°, and bake an additional hour, checking every 20 minutes to insure the granola is cooking evenly. If it’s darkening and drying unevenly especially around the edges, toss quickly to redistribute and return to the oven.

    Once done to your desired crispness (granola will dry further slightly as it cools) remove from oven. Toss in mixing bowl once again with powdered sugar, and transfer to sheets of wax paper on a flat open surface to cool, tossing occasionally.

    Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container for storage. This is a nice “display piece” so I always keep my fresh granolas in glass canisters with labels noting their varieties.

    You can enjoy this granola as a finger-food snack, or as a cold cereal with milk or yogurt and, if you like, additional fruit or brown sugar.

  7. 7-Layer Fiesta Burrito Granola

    April 4, 2011 by Cas

    Here, a savory sweet swap I think you’ll enjoy.

    Normally when you think of granola you think fruits and berries mixed in with the grains. This one features savory additions like beans and cheese and gets its flavor from savory spices such as cumin and chile.

    This granola is a great snack food, and is also amazing sprinkled on top of soups and salads. I found it most dangerous when just displayed in a glass jar on the butcher block, because every time I passed was occasion enough to grab a handful. The good news in that is if it becomes that regular a habit, it will be gone in no time so you won’t suffer for long.

    1 19-oz. Can black beans
    1 19-oz. Can red kidney beans
    10 Cups dry oatmeal, old fashioned or quick
    1 Cup Minute white rice
    3 Cups crushed tortilla chips
    1 Tbsp. chili powder
    1 Tbsp. paprika
    2 tsps. cumin
    1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    2 tsps. garlic powder
    2 Tbsps. dried chopped onion flakes
    2 Tbsp. dried parsley
    1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
    1 Tbsp. dried oregano
    1 Tbsp. salt
    1 15-oz. Jar queso dip
    1 15-oz. Jar prepared salsa (mild or medium)
    2 Tbsp. corn starch
    1/4 Cup vegetable oil
    8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
    4 Slices white bread, coarsely shredded or chopped

    Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two baking sheets or roasting pans, or line with parchment paper; set aside.

    Rinse and drain the beans in a colander and pat dry with some paper toweling. Transfer to a big mixing bowl with all but the last six remaining ingredients, and toss to mix.

    Mix salsa with corn starch until smooth. Add Salsa mixture, queso and oil to dry ingredients, and toss to coat thoroughly.

    Transfer granola mix to pans in two equal portions, patting each gently to form almost a bar-cookie, though not as densely packed.

    Bake for 1/2 hour; swap the pans between top and lower racks for more even cooking, and reduce heat to 300°. Return granola to oven for another 1/2 hour.

    Remove granola from oven and transfer back to clean mixing bowl. Add crumbled white bread and shredded cheese, and toss to incorporate.

    Transfer granola back to baking pans, and return to oven. Reduce heat to 250° and bake an additional hour (or longer if desired) checking every 20 minutes for even browning and tossing as necessary.

    When desired level of crispness and browning are reached, remove from oven and transfer to sheets of waxed paper on flat, open surface to cool completely. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

  8. Baked Polenta Lasagna

    March 16, 2011 by Cas

    Lasagnas are like people: there are a million variations, each with its own odd and sensational characteristics, and you should go out of your way to meet and experience as many of them as possible.

    Here, with Food Daddy’s first foray into the world of Baked and Layered and Off the Boat, I present a lasagna that combines some elements (ricotta filling and tomato sauce) that usually come to mind when you think “lasagna”, with a bit of a perk via the inclusion of some chopped sausage (vegetarian or otherwise) and a departure from the norm of white-flour lasagna noodles, relying instead on polenta –  here made into sheets — as the “pasta” holding the whole affair together.

    We will experiment with other polenta dishes, and MANY, many more lasagnas (there’s already another incredible recipe in the hopper I can’t wait to refine and share with you) but this is a nice way to take a few old Italian favorites and work them together.

    A note to my gluten-sensitive and full-on Celiac Foodies out there: THIS IS GLUTEN-FREE! And I’m marking it as such by including it in the GF category. BUT BE WARNED: if you choose to use a vegetarian sausage — many of which are just so good that nobody but you will ever know it’s not real pork — you MUST read labels, as the majority of these fine products have, as their main ingredient, the dreaded Vital Wheat Gluten.

    This lasagna is dense, and satisfying. And did I mention DENSE? A little goes a long way. I fed five people and still had leftovers. This is, if you cut the proposed 9 portions into 18 portions, a PERFECT central entree for a dinner or cocktail party.

    A further note from an Italian boy: as you serve this, the host gets the first piece. And not because he or she earned it, but because the first is the hardest to get out of the pan until you’ve made way for the others to slide out more easily — like one of those “mix and move the pieces” puzzles with the squares and the one open space. The sloppy-ass first hunk goes onto a plate which is quickly removed from sight, and then the guests are served the pristine slices that follow. The cooling time noted makes slicing and serving SO much easier, and nobody cries in pain as they burn the roofs of their mouths on molten cheese.

    For the Polenta:
    1 Cup “Quick” Polenta (corn meal) or precooked cornmeal (masa)
    (regular corn meal can be used, but stove-top time will be tripled)
    3 Cups water
    1 tsp. Salt

    For the Marinara Sauce:
    1 Can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained
    1 Small yellow onion, diced
    2 Tbsp. olive oil
    2 Tbsp. chopped garlic (or three cloves fresh, chopped)
    1 Tbsp. dried parsley
    2 tsps. Dried oregano
    1 tsp. Dried thyme
    1 tsp. Salt

    For the Filling:
    1 (15 oz.) Container ricotta cheese
    1 Large egg
    1 Cup plus 1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheese
    1 Tbsp. Parsley
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1/2 tsp. Black pepper
    2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    4 Links Italian sausage (cooked and drained, precooked, or vegetarian), diced

    Prepare the Polenta:
    Bring corn meal, water and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Once bubbling reduce heat to medium and stir frequently, about 5 – 7 minutes, until thick and belching steam. As it gets thicker you’ll need to stir constantly for the last minute or so. The resulting porridge should be the consistency of loose mashed potatoes.

    Lay out a long sheet (about a yard or so) of waxed paper on a flat surface. Remove polenta from heat and spoon it quickly down the center lengthwise of the wax paper. With a rubber spatula, dipping it frequently in warm water, spread polenta thin to form a long rectangle at least three times as long as (and at least the single width of) your 9″ x 9″ square baking dish. God, I hate fucking math. Roughly? A 10″ x 30″ sheet of polenta. An alternate method, once you’ve spread the polenta to near-size, is to cover with an additional sheet of wax paper and, with light pressure, use a rolling pin to smooth it out. Leave polenta to cool and set up until firm.

    Prepare the Marinara:
    In a suace pan, saute onions in olive oil over medium high heat, until transparent. Add garlic and continue to cook until the onions begin to brown, stirring frequently.

    Add remaining sauce ingredients and cook, covered, over high heat until mixture comes to boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes are tender and have given off all their liquid, puree to a chunky consistency with a hand blender or by transferring to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Return to pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and remove from heat.

    Prepare the Filling:
    In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients (except the remaining 1/4 cup of  parmesan, the shredded mozzarella and the sausage), until well combined.

    Preheat oven to 400°, and Assemble the Lasagna:
    Cut the polenta into three equal sections. Each should be roughly the size of the baking pan. They will be slightly larger (who wants slightly smaller? How ugly that would turn out!) so again, cut each square section into four squares. It makes placing them easier and accounts for uneven edges. I’ll explain how when we get to it. Please don’t rush me, I’m under enough pressure as it is.

    Ladel a thin layer of sauce onto the bottom of your 9″ x 9″ baking pan. If you’re smart it will be disposable aluminum, or your husband will be on dish duty after dinner. Take your first 1/3 of the polenta, which you’ve cut into 4 squares. Reassemble the square in the bottom of the pan by placing each one with the clean-cut center corner toward the outside corners of the pan; this will place the jagged edges and rounded corners in the center, and you’ll have a nice neat square with more consistent thickness.

    After the first polenta layer, spread on 1/2 of the ricotta cheese filling mixture; ladel on 1/3 of the remaing sauce. Top with 1/2 of the sausage and 1/3 of the mozzarella.

    Repeat with the next layer of polenta, the remaining ricotta, another 1/3 of the sauce, the remaining sausage, and another 1/3 of the mozzarella. Top that with the remaining layer of polenta, and cover with the last of the sauce and the mozzarella, and the reserved 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.

    Bake in center of oven at 400° for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and continue to bake for 30 minutes more, or until top is golden brown and with crispy, dark edges.

    Remove from oven to cooling rack or heat-proof surface, and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Cut into wedges (3 x 3 works best) and let your guests fight over who gets the coveted center square. Or the coveted corners with their TWO exposed sides of crispy edges. People are funny that way. And we fucking love ‘em for it.

  9. Profiteroles with Caramel Sauce

    March 14, 2011 by Cas

    After trying this out, I have found my  new go-to dessert. This is a triple threat:  it’s delicious; it’s elegant; and it’s simple.

    Though you wouldn’t guess the “simple” part by looking at it or by thinking what goes into it — but you’ll have to trust me.

    The puffs can be prepared ahead and filled when you’re ready to serve. The pate a choux dough can also be made ahead and reserved until you’re ready for the baking. And the caramel can be made ahead and warmed at dessert time.

    I served these to my family and friends when my daughter came in for Spring Break and I wanted something special to herald the prodigal offspring’s return. I felt like I was serving 20 people instead of five because by the time I passed the last dish out the first ones started coming back around for more.

    You must try these. And I must develop more ideas for filling the cream puffs because these are easy enough to make every day.

    1 Cup water
    1 Stick unsalted butter
    1 Cup flour
    1 Dash salt
    1 Tbsp. sugar
    4 Large eggs

    1/2 Cup brown sugar
    2 Tbsp. white sugar
    1 Tbsp. corn starch
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    4 Tbsp. (1/2 Stick) unsalted butter
    1 tsp. Vanilla extract
    1 tsp. Rum extract (optional)
    3/4  Cup milk

    Ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato for filling (your taste prevails, but keep to the lighter flavors such as vanilla, dulce de leche, caramel and such)

    Whipped cream or dessert topping for garnish

    Preheat oven to 425.

    In a saucepan, bring water and butter, sugar and salt to a boil. Add flour, and reduce heat. Dough will instantly form a ball and pull away from sides of pan. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes.

    Transfer dough to deep bowl (if using hand beaters) or the mixing bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Let dough cool five minutes, then beat eggs in one at a time. With each addition the dough will loosen and become lumpy until the egg is incorporated and it will become smooth and glossy again. After all eggs are added, beat one more minute.

    Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with round piping tip, or a ziplock bag, snipping 1/4″ opening in corner. If neither option appeals to you I will not hold it against you if you just use a teaspoon to transfer the dough to the baking sheets.

    Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe or spoon onto sheets, making mounds as round as possible, about 1″ or so apart. Wet a finger (preferably your own, because I’ve found people tend to balk when you just randomly wet their fingers) and smooth down any peaks formed in the piping (they will burn) and nudge any errant batter back into place.

    Bake at 425 for 10  minutes. Without opening door (on the oven, that is — I don’t want you to think I’m saying you have to ignore the knocks of visitors or refrain from stepping outside at all during this process), reduce heat to 350, and bake an additional 25 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, check the bottoms of a random puff or two in each pan; if they are darker than golden brown, or unevenly darkened, switch racks if one is top and one is bottom, and shut the door and reduce the heat to 250 for remaining baking time.

    Remove puffs from oven and transfer parchment to a heatproof surface or cooling rack. Allow to cool thoroughly. Depending on the size of the mounds of batter you pipe out onto the baking sheets, this will yield between 28 and 32 puffs.

    In a saucepan, mix brown and white sugars, corn starch and salt. Add butter and bring to bubbling over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, then add milk and extracts, and bring back to boiling, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

    To assemble and serve, cut puffs in half. If your ice cream is hard-frozen (I used gelato, which stays soft-serve in the freezer) you should temper it in the refrigerator or on the counter top before serving time. Remove the top from each puff, spoon a tablespoon of ice cream onto bottom half, and then replace its cap. Place three in a serving bowl or plate, drizzle a heaping spoon of caramel sauce over the tops, and garnish with whipped topping.

    If you were to sprinkle the dish with very finely chopped nuts or shaved chocolate, or even crushed biscotti or cookie crumbs, you wouldn’t hear ME complaining…

  10. 30/30 WTF! #30: Sweet Potato Pie Waffle

    March 9, 2011 by Cas


    Not the waffle. The waffle is just sweet sweet. Bittersweet is our final — the 30th of 30 — 30 Waffles in 30 Days recipe.

    This one is inspired by the fact that I have this can of yams in my cupboard that seems to be in the way every time I go for the cereal or almond butter. It’s like a clown doll in the closet: every time you turn around, it’s there, and it’s staring at you, and no matter where you move it to so you can avoid unnecessary encounters, it seems to move right back to where it wants to be the moment your back is turned. So I guess this recipe owes equal credit to the can of yams and the movie “Poltergeist”…

    Funny thing is, I made this from fresh sweet potato, because as much as I mock and deride, I actually prepare yams often enough that I like having that can on hand for when my family and friends say, “we know it’s April but we really want Thanksgiving dinner tonight.” So I feel I should always be prepared to accommodate request such as this, as well the frequent and proverbial wild hare up my ass to make sweet potato muffins, pancakes, or biscuits (which I promise we will cover in cocktail foods soon, because if you’ve never had them, sweet potato biscuits with sugar-baked ham are reason enough to throw a party).

    About the mashed sweet potato: either open your clown can, mash them up, and use as directed. Or cut a medium sweet potato (don’t bother to peel it), into chunks, cover with water in a saucepan, and boil for 10-15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat, let cool in the pot and the water, and when cool enough to handle simply pull the skins off, place in a bowl, and mash by hand with a fork or masher, or with a hand blender.

    Oh, and for the record, I really fucking love clowns.

    Waffle Iron Setting/Cook Time: MEDIUM HIGH

    1/2 Cup mashed sweet potato (THE RECIPE CALLS FOR 1 CUP TOTAL)
    1 Egg
    1/2 Cup milk

    1 Cup Bisquick
    1/4 Cup brown sugar
    1/2 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice (or an equal amount of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and or clove, to taste)
    1/4 tsp. Salt

    2 Tbsp. flour
    1/4 Cup brown sugar
    1/4 tsp. Salt
    1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
    1 Tbsp. butter

    1/2 Cup  mashed sweet potato (yes, the OTHER half of the full cup)
    1/2 Cup brown sugar
    1 Tbsp. Butter
    Dash of salt

    Marshmallow Fluff, for garnish.

    Combine 1/2 Cup of sweet potato, egg and milk. In a separate bowl, mix the baking mix, brown sugar, salt and spice to combine; add wet ingredients and stir until mixed well. Set batter aside.

    In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly. Pack firmly, and transfer to a small hot skillet or sautee pan over medium heat. Pan-bake the crumb topping until it loosens and starts crisping, breaking into crumbs as you go. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl or plate to cool.

    To make sweet potato jam, place remaining sweet potato, brown sugar, butter and salt in skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Cook one additional minute stirring constantly, and remove from heat.

    Grease waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray and spoon waffle batter onto griddle, leaving room for spread. Cook to golden brown, and remove to individual serving plates.

    Spread each waffle with Marshmallow Fluff (or see garnish note, below); spoon sweet potato jam over marshmallow, and sprinkle generously with crumb topping.

    As an alternate to the fluff, you can top the waffle with miniature marshmallows and microwave to melt slightly; or if the jam is still piping hot, you can spoon it generously right over the minis and let it do the little bit it can do to help them melt.

    High Altitude Directions: Follow recipe as written, but don’t look down or you may get dizzy.
    Dan Quayle Directions: Follow recipe as written, adding an “e” to the end of every reference to “potato”.