Monday, August 22, 2016

Caprese Salad - 2 Videos

The colors of this salad come from the Italian flag: green, white and red. It's a traditional salad known in Italy as Insalata Caprese, meaning "Salad of Capri" that's made with fresh summer ingredients.



My first recipe with homegrown tomatoes is always a Caprese Salad. Plus it's so simple to make with just sliced tomato, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, fresh basil, and a little salt and pepper. So check out my video recipe below to see the colorful steps to build your own Caprese Salad at home.

And as a special bonus, scroll to the end of this blog post to see a decade and a half old vacation video I shot of our trip to Italy! And shot B.I (Before Instagram) & B.Y. (Before YouTube.)


There are variations to this salad that include adding balsamic vinegar, pesto, or Italian dressing. I like the addition of fresh ground black pepper to mine. And since you are drizzling on olive oil make sure it is a tasty one.

Made with balsamic vingegar.

Of course, everything starts with a good tomato. My small crop of summer tomatoes got a late start so this is an end-of-summer dish. But if you have a weekly farmers market then do get a basket of heirloom tomatoes. It cost more, but sometimes you just gotta splurge.


I have found decent tasting tomatoes at regular grocery stores, and, believe it or not, my local 99c only Stores stock small plastic bins of them every once in a while.


Mozzarella is the other main ingredient. Use fresh if you can get it. It is usually stored in a plastic bin that's filled with water. It is less salty than commonly sold mozzarella that you might slice into a pasta dish or top a pizza with. I have used mozzarella from a chain grocery cheese deli section in a pinch, even if it is a bit rubbery.

Typical grocery mozzarella.

Fresh mozzarella is soft and tender with a mild taste. I get my fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe's here in Los Angeles (I wrote about them, here.) Specialty delis and some grocery stores will carry it, too.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Since I grow my own tomatoes, it's still a good deal...wait, who am I kidding here. By the time you invest in buying tomato plants, watering and fertilizing, you are lucky to break even - that is, if you even get a small handful of ripe tomatoes at the end of the growing season. Oh well. Just the intense flavor of a homegrown tomato makes all the waiting worth it!

Finally you want fresh leaves of the herb basil. While pungent, you are only adding one or two leaves per tomato and mozzarella slice. I like to get a plant and pick the leaves as I need them. A plant will replenish itself, too. You can find small packs of cleaned leaves in the fresh produce section of better stocked grocery stores.


A drizzle of olive oil and a grind of fresh sea salt and pepper finishes it all. Although purist will leave out black pepper.


 It's up to you how to present a Caprese Salad. I like to just line it all up. You can skewer it all if you are using easy-to-get cherry tomatoes. I also like to make small individual stacks. Make it like a typical salad and loosely mix it all up. Or just lay out a platter of sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, with a pile of basil leaves, and let your guest build their own.
Caprese Salad - VIDEO 

Play it here, video runs 1 minutes, 40 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (about 2-3 servings)
3-4 tomatoes - I used medium size. I sliced the tomato thick.
6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese - I had a little left over. Okay to use regular mozzarella. Slice the mozzarella to fit tomato slices.
Fresh basil leaves - One or two leaves per tomato slice. Some of my leaves were quite large, so amounts will vary.
Olive oil - make it a good tasting one. You only need enough to drizzle over Caprese Salad.
Salt to taste - sea salt is best.
Black pepper - optional. Fresh ground from peppercorns are best.


Directions
Clean and slice tomatoes. I like to slice them on the thicker side.


Drain and slice fresh mozzarella. Slice mozzarella to fit tomato slices.


Clean basil leaves if necessary. Pinch off the stems.Use as many leaves as you like.


Assemble Caprese Salad any way you like. Make individual stacks, or lay it all out like you would a typical salad. I just line my slices all up, alternating tomato, basil and cheese.


Finally drizzle on some olive oil and give a sprinkle of sea salt. I like to also add a little fresh ground black pepper.

And here's my bonus video of my vacation to Italy with Mrs. 99, done in June of 2002 - great food and great fun! 

Italy Vacation Video - VIDEO

  Play it here, video runs 19 minutes, 40 seconds.

 My YouTube video link for viewing, just click here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Korean-style BBQ Chicken

Move this BBQ recipe to the top of your to-do list. Typical Korean BBQ is cooked like American BBQ, which is over a coal or gas burning grill, even when you order it inside a Korean restaurant. And for my latest Summer grilling recipe I marinate chicken in a sweet and salty Korean BBQ Marinade.


Most Korean restaurants have a built in grill for each table, but some restaurants will bring the grill to your table. It is a unique dining experience you should try out sometime. The protein for grilling is everything from seafood to well marbled steak. Chicken, pork and beef are usually marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, sugar and ginger. 

It's all about the marinade. The dominate sweet and salty soy flavors are a perfect combination. And garlic takes the marinade over the top. Korean-style marinade is a nice change from typical tomato-based BBQ sauces. Grocery stores are starting to carry premade Korean BBQ Sauce in the International aisle, but it's easy enough to just make it yourself.


A Korean pear is another marinade addition, but I've substituted that with easy-to-get apple juice. Sesame oil is used and is more pungent that vegetable oil, but if it's too hard to find then sprinkle in dried sesame seeds - or just leave it out, the marinade will still hold up quite deliciously. Sesame oil is great in any favorite Chinese stir fry, or an oil and vinegar salad dressing.

I get most of the Korean BBQ Marinade ingredients from my local 99c only Stores. But, you can find most of the ingredients at regular grocery stores.


Click on any photo to see larger.

And make sure to let the chicken marinate for at least a couple of hours.

I get chicken cheaply at my local Latin grocery store. All the other ingredients are inexpensive enough.



As for grilling, just do it your typical way. I have a gas grill so it's easy to barbecue chicken. I used skinless and boneless chicken, but you can grill with whole chicken pieces.

My cheapie Korean BBQ Marinade goes well on beef steaks or regular hamburger, too.

I'm surprised I haven't done more cooking with Korean-style marinades. Well, I've got some catching up to do, and hopefully you do too!



Ingredients (about 3 servings)
  • 6 pieces of chicken - I used 3 skinless and boneless leg quarters (thigh and leg combined.) Okay to use whole chicken pieces with skin and bone.
  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar - okay to use your favorite sweetener.
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce - I used low sodium soy sauce and it was plenty salty.
  • 1/4 cup. apple juice - normally grated Korean pear is used.
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil - optional. Okay to use sesame seeds, about 2 tablespoons.
  • 2 tablespoons garlic - chopped, fresh or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons ginger - optional. Fresh or from jar.
  • Black pepper to taste - about a teaspoon. No salt as soy sauce has plenty of salt for me.



Directions

Prep garlic and ginger if necessary. I used bottled chopped garlic and ginger.

In a large enough bowl to hold chicken pieces, mix all the marinade ingredients. Stir well to dissolve brown sugar or favorite sweetener.




Add chicken pieces to Korean-style marinade and refrigerate at least 2 hours - okay to marinate chicken overnight. You can combine marinade and chicken in a Ziploc bag, too.


When chicken has soaked enough, then fire up the grill. You can use your favorite way to BBQ chicken.

I have a gas grill, so it only took me about 10 minutes per side to char the chicken pieces. Because there is sugar in the marinade, make sure to check chicken every couple of minutes, as it can quickly blacken.

Grill chicken over medium heat. Depending on the fire-heat it can be quicker or slower to cook. Chicken with skin and bone will take longer - anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes total.


If you are cooking chicken skin-on, make sure to have a spray bottle with water handy for fire flareups, due to dripping grease.

It's okay to brush on marinade during grilling. Since the marinade has raw chicken juices make sure to allow time for it to heat up enough. I stop adding marinade about half way through grilling. Of course, you can set aside some extra Korean Marinade before you add it to chicken, for grilling later.

To check for doneness, just slice into thickest part of chicken. Chicken color should be white or light brown - there should be no pink juices or pink/red color. Final check is internal temperature at 165 degrees.


Hindsight 
The main flavors in a Korean BBQ Marinade are sugar, soy sauce and garlic. If you have these ingredients then you are close enough to make my recipe above.

Also, you can use this marinade for any favorite protein you like to grill, including sausage, hamburger, steak, beef and pork ribs.

This marinade will work well for chicken that's sauteed, baked or cooked in a crock pot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Veggie Burger - Deal of the Day

My latest Deal of the Day is good and bad. The good is all the natural ingredients, but flavor is badly lacking. You get two Veggie Burger patties by Chef Ernesto, that I bought at my local Dollar Tree discount store. It's basically a disc of mashed potatoes with some veggie pieces sprinkled in. The balance is heavy on potato and light on other veggies.


I made a Veggie Burger, since that's what the package said. Just the normal lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard and mayo on a bun. It was a light meal and as filling as a small fast food burger.


A microwaved patty makes a mushy bite. It would have been better if the patty was crisped-up with sauteing? Anyway, the patty squashes flat after the first bite.


The mashed potatoes are plain and bland. I detected a few small chunks of boiled potato. The patty is quite hot when microwaved, so you need a spatula to load it on a sandwich. It's easier to handle plainly on a plate.

Click on any photo to see larger.

The veggies are small but you can still taste a little flavor, especially the whole corn kernels. Other veggies are bell pepper, green beans, onion and carrot. Ginger was also listed but I could not detect it flavor-wise.


The big reveal is how spicy-hot the veggie patties are; and probably why this Deal of the Day ended up in the Dollar Tree. If they would have put the spice level on the box, then maybe the right clientele would select it. A kid would not be able to handle the heat, unless they are used to spicy food. I noticed on the box that the patties are a product of India, so maybe the spice level was just lost in translation?


Also I'm surprised how humdrum the patty is, especially coming from a country with so many pungent and delectable spices.

Vegetable Oil is number two on the ingredient list, so some of the sogginess could be from too much oil. And just look at the amount left after heating -- I suspect the veggie patties are deep fried.

So on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give Veggie Burgers a 4. It's not bad, just a bit bland and pedestrian. If you like plain mashed potatoes with a few veggie pieces, then go for it - it's only a buck.

My sister Denise makes a delish Veggie Patty made with fresh sauteed eggplant, just check out the video below to see how a delish Veggie Burger is made. And click here to see all the tasty recipe photos and cooking text.


Play it here, video runs 8 minutes, 48 seconds. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trump Orange Chicken

I throw my whisk into the political arena with a recipe that is both delicious and revolting: Trump Orange Chicken. If it's not obvious to you, the delish part is Orange Chicken, while the 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is the latter.


Now that the buffoon has buffaloed the conservative populace, and belittled the other Republican presidential has-beens off the political stage, it's down to big cheese-tinted Trump. So in anticipation of the future tweeting Troll-in-Chief's Inauguration Day, I've come up with a tasty entree to serve for his first White House meal: Trump Orange Chicken.


Since The Donald is getting rhetorically tough on China, I thought an Asian inspired entree appropriate. For the future Bully Of The Free World orange is the new white, especially when he has the coloring of a carrot.

The main ingredients are cheap to get these days. First, chicken is perfect for a tough-talking Cheeto-in-Chief, as it symbolizes his cowardice: getting 5 draft deferments to stay out of the Vietnam War during its apex, even after being a decorated cadet from the New York Military Academy.

This is the same guy who said, reacting to criticism from Senator John McCain (a tortured Vietnam War prisoner,) "He's not a war hero...I like people that weren't captured, okay?"

Boy, I can't wait to see him salute the troops off, as he sends them to win the war on terrorism. Here's his cowardly statement that you can see for yourself.


Video runs 1 minute, 4 seconds.

When I get skinless and boneless chicken from my local Latin grocery store, I don't stop to wonder if it was prepared along the way by Mexican rapists and drug dealers, as xenophobe Trump would have it. And I didn't climb over or dig under a wall to get budget poultry. If you have an ethnic market in the neighborhood, do visit it sometime, and don't be frightened away by Trump's race baiting. Welcoming a mosaic of world cultures makes America truly great.



Fresh squeezed orange juice is the basis of my Orange Sauce recipe. But you can use any favorite grocery store frozen juice. After Trump's tan is freshly applied, I wonder if he perspires in orange? A disgusting thought, but not as deplorable as Trump's comments about women.

Click on any photo to see larger.

POTUS wannbe Trump once ran his own meat market, the Miss Universe pageant, and had the chutzpah to use it as a reference of his international diplomatic prowess to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin - God, what a putz. And just as disgraceful was watching the RNC and Fox (fake) News kingmakers applying lipstick on a chauvinist pig.

Having run a beauty pageant makes the possible Fake-Tan-In-Chief a great judge of a woman's worth - like the time he referred to fellow Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina in a Rolling Stone magazine interview: "Look at that face," he said. "Would anyone vote for that?" And adding "Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" Yep, that's the Donald at his slimy best. Elect this childish potty mouth and we'll soon learn how he rates all the female world leaders he will negotiate with.


Video runs 54 seconds.

This is a fried chicken recipe so a lot of cooking oil is needed. But you'll drain the fried chicken, so it's not too bad. But for something really oily, look no further than the business dealing of a mogul born with a gold plated pacifier stuffed between his puckered lips. Nothing like starting out in life with a Daddy Warbucks to fill in life's potholes and financially clean up your early failures.

For every Trump self-aggrandizing business success, there's a trail of stiffed contractors, tax dodges and bankruptcies, like the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. Hey, you win a few and lose a few, can't knock the guy for trying...except when the United States economy is on the chopping block with Trump wielding the butcher's knife.


My Trump Orange Chicken fillets are cut into bite sizes and crunchy coated. But what brings them over the top is a homemade sticky sweet Orange Sauce.


The Republican party is lapping up the sickly-sweet orange poison Kool-Aide Trump ladles out. Like his coifed comb over in a political windstorm, Trump adjusts his views in any direction. Future Egomanic-in-Chief  Donald Trump is a con artist, and only entered the presidential race to publicize the Trump brand. And the Republican Party has fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

One year he's supports abortion, now he wants to punish women who get one; he supported the Iraq war at first, now is against it; once he suggested a ban on assault rifles before becoming another lapdog of the NRA.

And one of his biggest flip flops? Straight from the jackass's, I mean horse's mouth, here's Trump's praise of Democrats, and his support of  Hillary Clinton as a diplomat. Just check out the interview video:


Video runs 1 minute, 55 seconds.

However much you may disagree (or tire) with my ranting, you can't deny my Trump Orange Chicken is a qualified success, both in flavor and appearance.

This recipe is for both political parties, and even independents can join in. So make the right choice this election year and serve my latest bipartisan recipe. Your dining guests will surely give you the "V" for victory salute!

Orange is the new white.

Ingredients
  • 4 pieces of chicken - boneless and skinless. I used 2 thighs and legs. Okay to use a whole chicken breast.
  • Salt and pepper to taste - optional. Soy sauce has plenty of salt for me.
  • Oil for frying - about 1/2 deep in a frying pan.


Frying Batter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup water - start with 1/4 cup of water. Stir, then add a tablespoon at a time, to reach a pancake batter consistency. Total amount of water is about 1/2 cup.


Orange Sauce

  • 3/4 cup orange juice - fresh squeezed or bottled.
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest - optional
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey - or favorite sweetener
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar - I used apple cider.
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch - to thicken sauce. Use one tablespoon cornstarch for a thinner sauce.
  • 1 teaspoon ginger - optional.  Fresh chopped or from jar.

Directions for Orange Sauce

Orange zest is pungent. Use a grater to remove some orange peel. It can be grated or just peeled. Try not to include the white bitter pith, just below the bright orange peel. This is optional.


Over a medium heat, add all orange sauce ingredients to a pot. Add orange zest. Mix well.

Click on any photo to see larger.


Finally mix in cornstarch. Make sure to stir and dissolve cornstarch.


Bring sauce up to a low simmer. Reduce sauce to low heat. Sauce will thicken as you cook up the chicken pieces. Sauce should only take 3-5 minutes to thicken. Add a little water if sauce gets too thick, like jam.


Okay to turn off sauce heat, then reheat when ready to mix with finished fried chicken.

Directions for chicken batter and frying

Prepare chicken if necessary. I used skinless and boneless dark meat. All I had to do was slice chicken pieces into bite sizes.



Mix dry ingredients in a wide bowl. Slowly stir in water and mix with dry ingredients until a pancake-like batter is formed.



Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a wide frying pan. Use a medium heat. Get the oil hot, to about 300 degrees. I don't use a thermometer, as my gas stove temp settings are close enough.

When oil is hot time to fry the chicken. First set out the chicken pieces and dip them in batter. Add coated chicken pieces to hot oil.
 

Mainly, you want the coated chicken to bubble when in contact with hot oil. Be careful when adding the first piece of wet coated chicken to hot oil.


When chicken is added to pan, it's best not to move chicken pieces around - just let them cook for 3-5 minutes each side. When you see browning along the edges of chicken then it's fine to check for a golden color.


Check thickest chicken piece for doneness. Just remove a piece and slice into it. There should be not red or pink juices. Dark meat takes longer than white meat to cook through. Cooking time will vary depending how hot the oil is and how thick you slice the chicken pieces.

Place fried chicken on a wire rack or paper towels to drain off some oil.


Reheat Orange Sauce if necessary. Place cooked chicken in a bowl and pour in the Orange Sauce to coat chicken. Lightly mix. Okay to just pour on Orange Sauce over chicken when you serve it, too.


You can serve Trump Orange Chicken over white or brown rice, or with a favorite side dish.

 
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