Archive for the ‘Cooking for One’ Category

Bok Choy and Flowers

April 21, 2012

Flowers and Panas en Escabeche

Last week the winds brought down partially ripe breadfruit from a tree and I got 3 of them. Now breadfruit is one of those items that is best eaten in the green phase as when ripe, it gets a very sweet taste and has the consistency of custard  I am not fond of the ripe ones. Even green it is not a popular vegetable in the Virgin Islands but gets more popular in the Eastern Caribbean. When I was in St. Kitts last summer a friend prepared Breadfruit Plantains and they are fantastic.

They are essentially fried and when cooked for only five minutes they are according to my granddaughters who did not know I made a switch with regular white potatoes, the best French Fries they had ever eaten. When they are cooked for 15 minutes or so, they turn a golden brown and get very crispy like a potato chip. I like them both ways and have been know to over indulge since you start with a whole breadfruit weighing about four pounds and you can fry another batch ever 5 to 10 minutes.

Since I had three breadfruit to play with, I started searching for other recipes. It seems the first recipe I found was called “Soused Breadfruit” which I had never heard of nor could I find it anywhere on the web other than that one recipe. But in the West Indies, most souse recipes call for Vinegar and oil which is the basis for Puerto Rican Escabeche so I expanded my search for Panas en Escabeche.

Essentially, these is just like the Green Banana salad (Escabeche de Guineos) previously published. You dice the Breadfruit after pealing and discarding the seed. The breadfruit cubes are boiled for about 20- to 25 minutes which makes them soft to a fork. All of the other ingredients are added to the bowl and tossed.

This time I had green and red bell peppers so I used both. Also I had a cucumber that I wanted to use up so, I pealed it and sliced it very thin with a cheese slicer and added that to the salad. It was a pretty good salad  but not as good as “the Best French Fries ever.”

So what has this got to do with Bok Choy? My friend Gloria loves Bok Choy and at 90 pounds is not worried about salt and high blood pressure from traditional stir fried recipes which are really quite good.  Gloria Powell (www.antilleslilies.com) is a event florist on St, Croix heavily involved in working with tourists who want to get married in a St. Croix celebration.The solution, I made a trade of my excess arugula and Bok Choy for her gift of flowers. She also bought me a glass of wine.

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Colorful Hash

April 20, 2012

Colorful Hash

I have been visiting over at Audrey Can Cook since January of this yer when she caught my attention with a recipe for blintzes. For those who don’t know, these crapes, when used as a dessert, are stuffed with a sweetened cheese filling. Now I am not big on desserts, but her focus is on small portions whether it’s a meal or a dessert so I keep going back.

In March, she had a very simple recipe for Hash and the only substitution I made was to use a yam instead of a white Irish Potato. Seems I didn’t have any potatoes on hand and didn’t feel like making a special trip to the store so I used ½ of a medium sized yam which is still larger than a normal potato. While this may not be traditional, the hash turned out excellent.

Ingredients:
1/2 Yam, cooked and cubed
1 carrot, coined
1T olive oil
1 piece Italian sausage remove meat from the casings
1 small onion, rough cut
1 bell pepper (red), diced
1 T garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Method:
1. Pre-Cook Carrots and Yam. (Put coined carrots and cubed yam in coffeepot with tsp salt. Run water through coffeemaker to heat up and let drip on yam and carrots. When done dripping, cover with foil and cook for about one hour. Drain and remove from pot and hold for later.
2. Cook meat, onions and garlic in 1T of olive oil about 1 hour
3. Add peppers to the pot and cook covered for one hour
4. Add cooked carrots and yams to the pot, cook covered for 2 more hours.
5. mix well and season to taste

As the picture shows, this was a colorful combination and the next time I cook it, I will stick with the yam. The other advice I would give for this simple flavorful meal, is to make sure you get the best sausage you can find. A lot of the flavor comes from the spices in the sausage and the fat gets adsorbed by the vegetables. So good sausage will give you a good hash.

Good Bok Choy

April 17, 2012

Bok Choy Bed

The Bok Choy in my garden is even healthier than my arugula which is so thick, I could harvest it with a Machete. To bad I’m not overly fond of Bok Choy because most recipes taste good but are heavily loaded with salt which I try to avoid. I started searching for low salt recipes and found a few and decided to move from the least complex to more sophisticated to see if I really liked any of them.

The following recipe was inspired by a recipe from steamykitchen.com where they start to build up the flavor with the addition of ginger and chicken broth with salt to taste.

Stir Fried Bok Choy

Ingredients:

4 large leaves

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T crushed garlic, finely minced

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 tsp sesame seeds

4 tablespoons chicken broth

salt to taste

Method:

This is a typical stir fry with the oil, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds added to my fry pan and stir fried for a minute or two after the pan starts sizzling.

The stems are added to soften for a few minutes and then the broth and chopped leaves are added and stir fried until the leaves wilt.

Serve immediately and add salt to taste.

The Bok Choy still needed salt but at least I was in control.

Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans

March 24, 2012

Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans

The major problem I have in cooking for one person is scaling recipes, especially those using unfamiliar spices or those that call for a pinch of something. I have both problems scaling Indian Foods which are new to me yet are well worth my interest when it comes to flavor. I have been inspired by Monica at the Spice Diary and have been a student of hers for almost two years. Some of the things I have noticed about her recipes are: Indian spices are unique and it is difficult to make substitutes; because of this, don’t even try a recipe unless you have all the ingredients; and don’t second guess the amount Monica uses until you are totally comfortable with the genera.

Initially, I decided to make her recipes using the recommended amounts for the spice blends (masala), marinades and sauces and just reduce the amount of meat and potatoes. Even though I hate to waste anything, I figured if I were to never use the spices again, making too much sauce was really not much of a waste. Eventually, I figured out that I was a real fan of Monica’s cooking and beginning to be a fan of her style of Indian cooking, but still, I was not familiar enough with the spices she used to know where I could scale back. I didn’t want to cook a pound of Chicken for three meals instead of 5 ounces of meat so there was always sauce left over.

Eventually the same solution evolved for all of the Italian, Caribbean and Indian Meals I make and that is rebuilding the sauce into an entirely different meal. Over the next few posts, I will present an example of each type of meal being rebuilt into something entirely different without voiding the concept of portion control or being tempted by leftovers.

The Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans is a remake of Monica’s Spicy Chicken Previously Published on February 27. Now I know that that meal was prepared about February 10th because of the flowers with this meal pictured above. I had purchased a dozen carnations on February 13, and gave away half to women I knew in semi random acts of kindness. A couple of nights before, I had a grilled fish and ate half. If you check the Spicy Chicken Recipe closely, you will find about 12 ounces of seasoning and sauce for the two small thighs I ate.

Recipe (if you want to call it that):

I saved the sauce left over from Monica’s Spicy Chicken. I added the deboaned half of the fish to the sauce. I cooked a half cup of garbanzo beans (1 drained can) and added that to the fish and the sauce. Warm in the coffeepot for two hours, serve with flowers and enjoy.

The next day was Valentines and I gave away half of the flowers I had left  to friends at the Palms Resort and kept the rest.

Take note, the bottle to the left of the wine glass is local West Indian Hot Sauce. Talk about cross cultural confusion? Even though I added hot pepper to the original recipe, I wanted just a little more heat with this meal.

Mea Culpa. I have failed the Coffeepot Cult.

September 10, 2011

Back to Coffeepot Cooking

Over the past eight months, I have not posted anything new and in fact my last eight posts had more to do with portion controlled meals than they did with coffeepot cooking. It’s not that I gave up on portion controlled meals or even coffeepot cooking; I just went through a phase where I stopped feeling creative about what I eat. I also stopped worrying too much about my weight which is still around 176 plus or minus four pounds.

I am also starting a new hiking/tour business which took an incredible amount of my time and creative energy so I stopped being creative with what I ate. Instead of searching the Net for new recipes which could be adapted to my coffeepot or creating a unique meal from my knowledge of food and flavors that work together, I reverted to those recipes already published by me. Even when I created a new meal, I still didn’t publish because most were simply not as good as the ones I originally published or I failed to write the recipe down and skipped taking pictures.

Well, my business, Hikestcroix.com is starting next month and I’m beginning to feel creative about food again. I don’t know if this will continue as I start walking 20 miles a week with temperatures around 88 and humidity above 85% but I know I am still committed to eating healthy portion controlled meals.

I have also started growing my own fresh vegetables including microgreens which I never heard of until a couple of months ago. I like the concept that I can grow my own greens from seeds and water that are fresh and delicious. However, after 66 years, I am more accustomed to the texture of traditional lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and seasonal tomatoes.

I am going to try to adapt some of these greens to the things I like such as soup and coffeepot meals in addition to salads. I will publish the salads and coffeepot meals here in the near future.

Tostones – Puerto Rican Twice Fried Plantains

January 18, 2011

Tostones and Mojo

I have eaten and enjoyed Tostones for the past 40 years of my life but never made them as they are twice fried plantains and that just sounded like a lot of work. A couple of weeks ago there was an interview in the newspaper with Angie Morales of Villa Morales and she said she is so used to cooking them that she could do a batch in 10 minutes from start to finish. I decide to give it a try because I have been in her kitchen when she was making them for a large group and have seen other local cooks making them for smaller groups.

For those who don’t know, Tostones are a fried disc of plantain which is about two inches across and gets enlarged from the standard size during the preparation. They are extremely crispy and great with salt, ketchup, or the more traditional Mojo which is a garlic sauce you make yourself. The starting fruit is an unripe green Plantain. They are great as an appetizer, or as a side dish or snack. Think “French Fried Potatoes” and you will get a good idea of all the ways that children and adults enjoy Tostones.

Ingredients:
Plantain
Frying Oil
Salt

Directions:
1.Peal Plantain, use a knife to start.
2.Slice ½ to ¾ inch thick. (Thicker slices, cut on a diagonal will give a bigger finished Tostone)
3.Fry 2 minutes per side at 350 Fahrenheit (Hot Oil but not smoking) until just tender to the fork.

Fry Half Inch Chunks

4.Remove and drain on paper towel
5.Press flat with palm or flat object. I used a beer mug. They should end up ¼ inch thick. (Sorry about this Picture) If necessary, use a fork to separate them from the bottom of the mug.

Press Flat with Beer Mug

6.Return them to the pan and fry a couple more minutes on each side until golden brown.

Refry Compressed Discs

7.Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with Mojo.

Mojo (Traditional Garlic Sauce)
Ingredients:
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heaping Tablespoons Crushed Garlic (6 large cloves)
2 Tablespoons Lime or Lemon Juice
½ tsp salt.
Optional:
1 Scotch bonnet hot pepper
¼ cup more oil.

Blend all the ingredients in a blender until a smooth liquid. and serve. The traditional Mojo has no hot pepper but since I like hot pepper, I added a whole one and some more oil and blended it until it had the texture of mayonnaise. If I were serving this to guests, I would definitely leave out the hot pepper and serve it in the traditional manner.

Paneer Masala

January 10, 2011

Paneer Masala

There is that old saying about what do you do when God gives you lemons and of course the answer is make Lemonade which was covered in a previous post. Now the next question is what do you do when your Grandchildren come to visit and leave you with a full gallon of milk. The answer is not quite so obvious but it is”Make paneer” and once again thanks to Monica, there is a good recipe online that works well.

I refer you to her site because while I made it slightly differently, I ended up without pictures but the paneer which is not locally available tasted great so I decided on a simple Paneer Masala, once again from Monica. Now probably the biggest change I made to the recipe was to cut the amount of paneer used in half because four ounces was all that came out of the half gallon of low fat milk. So what I had is what I used.

The other change was partially logical and partially pragmatic. Since I cut the amount of paneer in half, I cut the turmeric used to season it in half. Locally, turmeric is $6.99 for less than an ounce and that provided another incentive to the logical reduction. I also cut the salt to season the paneer in half because overall there is still a lot of salt in the rest of the recipe.

From a pragmatic perspective, I used a full tin of drained diced tomatoes instead of half and the final change was to substitute a dried red chili for the unavailable green one. Well the meal was fantastic and my friends loved it. Perhaps this is true because none of us had ever eaten very much Indian food in general or Monica’s in particular. However I really can’t imagine a meal much more flavorful than this one was.

If I had thought of it at all, I would have made an additional change and that was to use all of the peas in the recipe. It’s about a week since I made this meal and all the paneer, sauce and tomatoes are gone but the other half of the can of peas still lingers in my refrigerator. Oh well, I am still learning to think beforehand about preparing meals for one or two and I hate wasting a thing or building a meal around one minor ingredient that I rarely use. Next time I will add it all. And this is good enough that there will be a next time.

Ingredient:

To season the paneer:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 block of paneer (1/4 pound), cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

To make the Marsala:

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp grated ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 medium onion

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 green chilli

handful of fresh chopped coriander

1 tin plum tomatoes drained but retain liquid

1/2 to 1 can peas drained

1 small can mushroom pieces

Directions:

1.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds. Once they begin to sizzle, add the paneer cubes. Now add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder.

2.  Stir occasionally until paneer turns golden on all sides. Remove from heat and hold for later.

Spiced and Cooked Paneer

3. In a blender, add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. If done in a blender you will have to add the olive oil to the blender instead of the pan. Also add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp garam masala and the coriandor. Process until finely ground.

Blend the Masala and Oil Paste

4.  In a pan, heat the masala containing the oil. Cook on medium heat until golden brown, about 1/2 hour.

5.  Add 1 tin drained plum tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Once the oil begins to separate from the masala, add the peas. Then add the mushrooms and the previously prepared paneer. Stir

6.  Add the saved tomato juice so it is just covering the vegetables and paneer and bring to temperature.

7.  Serve with rice.

This is another full flavored Vegetarian meal from the kitchen of Monica as adapted for my coffeepot or your crockpot.

Crucian Fusion Pasta Sauce – An Original Recipe

January 8, 2011

Crusion Frusion Sauce Served with Gimelli and Parmesan

As regular visitors are aware, our local cuisine in St. Croix is a fusion of American, Caribbean and Hispanic and yes, I am aware of Vodka Sauce which has good and bad taste elements in my mind so I have never tried it. I almost never use milk in cooking with the exception of thickened white sauces. However, my Uncle Allie by marriage always had a side dish of Ricotta Cheese at his red sauce meals and taught me to use it and blend it with the tomato sauce on your own plate. I don’t dislike red peppers but I like our local scotch bonnet peppers even more. Finally, I generally neither buy Vodka or have it in the house but there is always a bottle of Rum available even though I only drink red wine.

I made this for myself and some friends and then on another occasion served it to my daughter’s family and some of their friends. Everybody loved it and nobody cared it was made in my coffeepot as we all went to the beach and let the meal cook itself. Of course this recipe is perfect for a bottom heated newer crockpot.

Ingredients:

½ cup Cruzan Rum

1 thin slice Scotch Bonnet Pepper or ½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 T. Olive Oil

¼ pound prosciutto chopped up

2 Cloves of Garlic minced

1 T. chopped Parsley

1 T chopped Basil

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice

1 8 oz can of Tomato Sauce

½ cup of Ricotta

Directions:

  1. In a closed container put the half cup of rum and the hot pepper and let sit overnight
  2. Put oil, garlic, prosciutto, and parsley in pot and put on hot plate for one hour.

    Prosciuto and Parsley Ready to be Cooked.

  3. Add tomatoes, basil and tomato sauce and let cook covered for 2-4 hours or what ever is convenient.

    Ready for the Ricotta

  4. ½ hour before serving add the ricotta
  5. Serve with your choice of pasta (Gimelli) and Parmesan.

A very special meal from the Island of St. Croix. Take note, people from the island of St. Croix are Crucians, where as our best rum from the island is Cruzan.

Puerto Rican Green Banana Salad or Escabeche de Guineos

January 6, 2011

Green Fig Side Salad

The first two people who served me this side dish were of Puerto Rican extraction so I called it Puerto Rican Green Banana Salad or Escabeche de Guineos. Actually, it is common throughout the Caribbean because it evolved by eating green bananas as a starchy substance when times are tough. In addition to being called Green Banana in English, it is also referred to as Green Fig Salad although there is no relationship with Figs as most Americans understand the word. This is not to be confused with plantains which appear to be big green bananas as this salad is made from regular unripe starchy bananas.

Green Fig

I would imagine this side dish evolved from an era when you had fields of bananas and none ripe and nothing to feed the kids for lunch. The solution is simple, boil the green bananas and toss them in a salad with whatever you have. The recipes are more standard now but there are still personal and regional variations. Of course, the source for my recipe is once again my friend Chino who shared his kitchen with anybody who liked to drink beer and keep him company while he was cooking. This was not as difficult as going to a culinary college so I found myself joining him quite frequently.

At a Crucian Breakfast or Brunch, you will traditionally find a salt-fish dish, johnnycake, various fritters and Green Banana Salad. After that the variety of side dishes for breakfast is an endless combinations of old fashioned foods. At other meals Green Fig can be served as a side dish from a bowl like seasoned rice or any other vegetable or can be garnished and served as a salad as above. Eating it on new years will bring you green for the year.

Ingredients:

2 Green Bananas

¼ cup olive oil

2 T. distilled white vinegar

2 T. lemon juice

10 sliced green Spanish Olives stuffed with pimento

1T. Crushed Garlic

1 tsp. capers

1 Onion thin sliced and separated into rings.

½ green pepper cut into thin rings

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. Pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the ends off the green bananas and score it lengthwise. Try not to go deeper than the skin as a deep cut will discolor. Leave the skins on and boil for 20-25 minutes on the stove top or cut in half put in coffeepot and run 10 cups of water through the coffeemaker let stay on hot plate covered with foil for 1 hour.

    Prepare Green Banana for Cooking

  2. Remove skin from the cooked bananas and slice into pieces – your choice I have seen them cut from 3/8 inch discs to 1 inch long pieces. Some people serve them whole without any dressing. They are all good. I used about ½ inch pieces.

    Boiled Pealed Green Fig

  3. Put all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until evenly distributed.
  4. Add bananas and gently toss until all are coated with the dressing and blended with the other ingredients.

    Tossed Salad Ready to Serve

  5. Serve from the Bowl or make as a side salad.
  6. For the simple salad plate,  I used a bed of lettuce and fresh ripe tomatoes locally grown.

Winter is our strongest growing season for vegetables as that is when it is cool enough to grow a lot of North American summer crops. We have fantastic tomatoes and cucumbers but since the salad was already white, I left the cucumbers out for appearance but if you like cucumbers and have them on hand, why not include them?

Grilling For the New Year

January 4, 2011
Pesto and Gorgonzola Stuffed Pork, Baked Beet and Coleslaw

Pesto and Gorgonzola Stuffed Pork, Baked Beet and Coleslaw

As regular readers know Dolores was very fond of Holiday Traditions and Food on New Years Day had a double impact. One old saying in St. Croix is to be careful of how you start the New Year because you will probably live the whole year the same way. So never argue or fight with anybody, avoid being tired or terribly hung over and get outside and do something healthy.

Another issue is what are the lucky foods to eat to start the year off correctly. One tradition from the states holds that eating cabbage and pork will bring you luck and prosperity. Another almost logical one is pork and collard greens. The better cuts of pork will have you living high on the hog all year long and the collard greens will bring green money to you. Another one is Lechon and Green Fig. The former is seasoned roasted pork and the latter is a tossed salad of boiled green bananas.

Stuffed Pork Loin

I couldn’t think of a single reason to break tradition and I had a frozen 5 oz piece of pork tenderloin and you cant get much higher on the hog than that. I brought a one pound piece and cut it in thirds right away so I decided to stuff one piece with a delightful yet simple blend of a Tablespoon of Pesto and a Tablespoon of Gorgonzola blended together with the back side of the fork.

I decided to grill it because I didn’t want to start the new years by creating and cleaning up after a mess in the kitchen so I built the entire meal around roasting my slab of meat on a piece of aluminum foil on the grill. Of course I slow cooked the meat on the colder side of the grill and folded up the edges to preserve the stuffing that leaked out as the meat cooked. This was cooked for a half hour turning once.

Baked Beat Before Pealing

Not to waste my fire I decided on a roasted beet because I had heard so much positive about the caramelized rich sugars and the bold earthy flavor so just had to try it since the heat was free and once again there was no cleanup. This was simple enough; put the beet on a piece of foil and lift up the edges. Pour some olive oil to coat the entire beet and close the foil. This was cooked on the hotter side of the banked fire for an hour.

The cabbage was coleslaw and simple to make. I used a cup of that per-shredded stuff that you get at the grocery store and mixed the following ingredients in the bowl prior to adding the cup of cabbage to the bowl and tossing it to coat all of the pieces.

Ingredient:

2 T mayonnaise

1 T distilled white vinegar

1 T lemon or lime juice

1 tsp brown sugar

¼ tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Mix well and stir in 1 cup of shredded cabbage

The coleslaw and pork were fantastic and that is the extent of my traditions as outlined by Dolores.

Now the beet is a different story. If you love beets, this is just one more way to cook them and it is easy enough to do. I have learned to love borscht and pickled beets but this was your typical earthy tasting bland beet. The sprinkle of Gorgonzola didn’t help. I perked them up with my old standby, Balsamic Vinegar, and was able to say that they were good enough for me to eat it all up and start my year with a very healthy meal.

Well, I started my year with a great meal and a clean kitchen. Nothing could be finer so it must be Paradise or at least I’m grilling in January which is fine with me as I hate the cold.