Shortribs 5

Braised beef short ribs are the epitome of “high end” comfort food. They can often be found on restaurant menus, cooked with classical French or Asian flavors and bearing a somewhat hefty price tag. I think many people have the misconception that they’re pricey because they’re technically difficult or labor-intensive to prepare, but those preconceived notions couldn’t be father from the truth.

Yes, at the grocery store beef short ribs aren’t as inexpensive as stew or braising meat, but getting the result of tender, succulent, fall-off-the bone meat is so worth extra cost. And this “fancy” restaurant dish can be prepared right in your own kitchen (culinary degree not required). Making braised short ribs at home is definitely worth the effort, and they are, in fact, pretty effortless to prepare. They even create their own sauce while they cook.

For a twist on this classic dish, I’ve put a Southwestern spin on it, using spices and flavors commonly found in Southwestern cuisine and — my favorite bit — tequila. Serve them on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes or sweet corn polenta (as I’ve done) to soak up the flavorful, gravy-like sauce.
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The rice cooker was a lifesaver when making sushi in culinary school (and that’s about the only time we were allowed to use a household appliance). I found it to be useful because cooking rice perfectly on the stove is not as easy as one would think (and I’m not talking about the boil-in-bag kind). Outside of class, those cookers are convenient if you eat rice frequently, but never suited my personal cooking needs, or piqued my interest. Until I was shown the way, at least.

I was scrolling through my Google feeds — packed with various food blog posts — and stumbled upon an article about rice cookers from the New York Times. What’s this?! Not only can it cook perfect rice, but it can steam, bake, saute, braise, simmer, poach and more?

Turns out, you can make a whole meal in this contraption, and it doesn’t even have to include rice! Of course, you can make rice-based dishes such as pilafs, Italian risotto, Indian biriyani, Thai curry dishes, Chinese fried rice, rice pudding, etc. But you can also cook other grains and legumes — barley, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans — great bases for soups and one-pot meals. If you simply switch the machine to “cook” and let it heat up, you can also saute and braise. For example, to braise baby back ribs: add your liquid and ingredients of choice, close the lid and switch it to “cook.” It’ll be done in less than an hour.
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yoohoo_martini

While thumbing through an in flight magazine on the red-eye to San Antonio a few years ago, I stumbled across this fabulous cocktail recipe — the Hooville Martini. Whoever thought of using Yoo-Hoo as a mixer is a genius.

The Hooville was created for the bar menu at the trendy Ketchup restaurant in L.A., which features classic comfort food dishes with a gourmet twist. Their drink list also features other memorable kid beverages, like Sunny D and Kool-Aid, updated into playful and creative cocktails. “The Hooville takes on the creamy and chocolatey Yoo-Hoo, but with added almond flavor, since what goes better with chocolate than almond? It’s a nutty, rich tasting cocktail that makes a really good after-dinner drink,” says Ketchup’s bar manager, Darius Karsas.

I also think this would make a great breakfast or brunch drink, like an adult chocolate milk with a little ‘hair of the dog’.

Recipe after the break:

For a fun flavor variations, why not use Kahlua or your favorite flavored liqueur in place of the amaretto? Or try it caffeinated by using espresso-flavored vodka, thus giving it a mocha-like taste.
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Brunch is my favorite part of the weekend — I love making it and I especially love eating it (also because it gives me an excuse to drink a Bloody Mary before noon). Combining two meals into one is a genius idea because you can have your breakfast-type items (eggs, waffles, etc.) and more substantial lunch- or dinner-type dishes.

I’m always trying out fun new places for brunch or coming up with recipes for it. This brunch dish is one I came up with that combines two of my favorite cuisines: Southern and Southwestern. Shrimp and grits are a staple dish of the coastal South, and flavors like ancho and poblano are hallmarks of Southwestern cuisine.

The recipes for this dish require a little time and effort but are definitely worth the end result! I suggest serving it with sauteed spinach or collard greens to give some nice green color to the dish — I like to spike my greens with tequila while they’re cooking for a Southwestern/Mexican twist.
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Here’s an oldie but a goodie from my recipe arsenal that I created a few years ago (and please excuse the bad pic, as it was before I knew anything about food photography). These bacon-dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting are one of my most requested recipes, so here it is. It’s also one of the recipes I made during one of my regular cooking spots on Studio 10 (watch the video here titled “A Birthday Treat with a Twist”).

I will confess that I cheated a bit on this one — I used cake mix from a box. (Gasp!) Baking cakes and pastries completely from scratch has not always been my forte (actually, my worst subject in school). They’re so fussy to make and easy to screw up, and I hate measuring out ingredients. I take the Rachael Ray approach to cooking: a palmful of this, a pinch of that, etc. Bottom line: you can’t mess up with cake mix and I had my reputation relying on these — no room for error. At least I made the peanut butter frosting from scratch, thus redeeming my honor.

The rich chocolate and smoky bacon marry beautifully and are enhanced even more by the sweet and salty peanut butter frosting. This is definitely a ‘must try’, whether it be in cupcake, cookie, or bar form. And if you don’t eat bacon, your loss.
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Your Creative Loafing food contributors, GNATV and Katie Machol, joined forces to bring you this entertaining video tutorial on how to prepare “Fiesta Mac n’ Cheese” in a rice cooker. This easy recipe can be prepared in a jiffy just using a rice cooker. A little late for Cinco de Mayo, but a fun and tasty dish for any time of the year!

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Lemons always remind me of spring because of their sunny color and fresh flavor they add to food. I love to use lemon juice to add a bright citrusy flavor to dishes, and the zest shouldn’t be wasted either — it packs a punch of flavor in just a small amount. Mint is also another favorite flavor of mine and tangy lemon and cool mint taste great together.

Risotto is a creamy, traditional Italian rice dish that’s so versatile it’s great for any time of the year or occasion. So, thanks to my affection for lemon and mint during this season, I decided to marry the two in this dish.
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I was in another Latin mood last week when I decided to make this recipe. I had a taste in my mouth for that combination of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs that chimichurri possesses and was simply looking for an excuse to make it, and a vehicle on which to consume it. Chimichurri is a traditional, uncooked condiment from Argentina that is used on grilled meats and fish. I could eat it on almost anything.

My inspiration for this came from a dish I’d eaten recently, grilled flank steak with chimichurri, at Cafe Dufrain in Harbour Island. Flank steak can be tough and needs to be marinated for a long time and I wanted a tender, thick and juicy hunk of meat, so I opted for a New York strip instead (my cut of choice). This cut of meat really doesn’t need to be marinated because it’s tender enough already, but I wanted to infuse a bit more flavor before throwing it on the grill. You can use any beer you’d like for the marinade (I used Dos Equis Amber) but I’d suggest a somewhat dark beer, like a Mexican amber beer or a medium ale, nothing too light or fruity. (more…)

 mockamole1I am a big fan of guacamole, and avocados in general. So when I found this recipe for guacamole that didn’t use avocados in my Meatless Monday cookbook, I was a bit skeptical. But, as the saying goes, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

The great thing about this recipe is that it contains items you probably already have in your refrigerator. Otherwise, the ingredients are dirt cheap to buy at the grocery store. Just throw in anything you would add to normal guacamole — onions, jalapenos, spices, etc. Frozen peas are about a dollar, and the recipe calls for only one-third of a bag. What will probably end up happening, though, is you’ll try this faux guacamole recipe and then use the rest of that bag of frozen peas to make some more. Bonus: frozen peas are always in season.

Unless you have an aversion to peas, this replacement guacamole rivals the original — it’s slightly sweet, smooth, super tasty, and keeps its bright verdant color (as opposed to the old fashioned kind that turns brown because of oxidation). Not to mention, using peas in place of avocado reduces the calories in this dip by almost three quarters and fat by 34 grams, so you won’t have to feel guilty when snacking on this addictive appetizer.

So go ahead, try this flavorful new twist on classic guacamole and become a convert to the delicious copycat that is mockamole.

Mockamole
(makes about one cup; recipe courtesy of Meatless Monday cookbook)

1 cup frozen green peas, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (or one fresh jalapeno pepper, minced)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
(I also used chopped fresh cilantro)

1. Combine the peas, cumin, onion, and garlic in the container of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.

2. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and process just to blend.

3. Taste and season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

4. Blend for just a few more seconds, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with chips, crackers, or fresh veggies.

Check out the Meatless Monday site for recipes and tips to kickstart healthier living! And be sure to check out my blog, Culinary Pirate, and follow me on Twitter!

mex_pizza

Money seems to get tighter and tighter these days, so why spend 15 bucks on delivery pizza? One of my favorite pre-made products in the grocery store is Pillsbury’s refrigerated pizza dough. For around $2.50, you can pick up a tube of it and get creative by adding your favorite toppings. You can even find one-serving size cans of pizza sauce in the pasta aisle, so it saves you from having to buy a huge jar of sauce. Why not skip the marinara sauce altogether and do a white pizza or use up that barbecue sauce in your fridge place of it? The Mexican pizza I made (recipe below) cost about $9 to make (not including things I already had on hand, i.e.: olive oil, herbs, etc.) and could serve four people, so this is definitely a recession-friendly meal. (more…)

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