Friday, May 30, 2008

Jacaranda In Bloom & Eggplant Hummus - Video

Emblematic to LA is its grand boulevards lined with palm trees. This month a purple upstart enters the scene -- the blossoming Jacaranda Tree. Stand under its branches at full bloom and the perfume is overwhelming.

May is the month that launches millions of blossoms carpeting large swaths of sidewalk; drive along 6th Street near LACMA and it's blue for blocks. 

To keep the purple theme going I add cooked purple eggplant to a Hummus recipe. I have found roasted eggplant in oil at my local 99c only Store.

But you can roast or saute a fresh eggplant, too. Just click here to see how I do it.

Click on any photo to see larger.

My Hummus recipe is made with easy to get ingredients. I use sesame seeds instead of hard to find tahini, which is similar to peanut butter, just blander.

And cans of cooked garbanzo beans are cheap at any grocery store. Also add a little lemon juice, ground cumin, and olive oil.

It all comes together easily in a blender or food processor, just blend until creamy.

I like to serve Eggplant Hummus with triangles of pita bread. You can use a favorite cracker or fresh chopped veggies like celery, broccoli or carrot.

Eggplant Hummus & Jacaranda Blossoms - Video
Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

To view or embed video from youtube click here.

  • 1 small jar marinated grilled eggplant - Okay to use fresh baked or sauteed eggplant.
  • 1 can garbanzo beans - 16 ounces, drained.
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds - or 2 tablespoons of tahini.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice - fresh or concentrate from a 99 cent plastic lemon.
  • Pita bread slices - or favorite sliced raw veggies.
Drain can of garbanzo beans.

Add all ingredients (including oil from marinated eggplant) to blender or food processor and blend for 20 to 30 seconds until hummus is creamy.

Serve with sliced pita bread triangles and/or fresh chopped veggies (carrots, celery, red/yellow bell pepper, etc.) 99c only Stores also sell roasted red bell pepper in a jar, so try that sometime instead of eggplant.

If your local 99 cent or dollar store is out of bottled roasted veggies make a plain one with the above-mentioned ingredients and the addition of a 1/4 cup of 99 cent olive oil blend.

I use sesame seeds in this Hummus recipe. Usually, a paste called tahini is used, if you can find it then use it - about a tablespoon or two. Tahani tastes like bland peanut butter, so if you can't find sesame seeds or tahini then add a teaspoon of peanut butter.

I also have a recipe for Baba Gnoush that uses roasted eggplant. Just click here if you want to use fresh roasted eggplant, or if you can't find cheap marinated eggplant in oil. One eggplant should be plenty for this recipe. Eggplants are sometimes sold large-sized, but they shrink a lot when baked or sauteed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Deal of the Day - Dried Fruit

When is pineapple not pineapple? When it is bright orange, not yellow; sliced into ovals, not rings, and most of all: when it's flavored like a mango. Don't be thrown-off by the description, this dried fruit confection is quite tasty. On the way home after hitting the 99c only Store, the Chef often rewards himself with a 5 oz. package of Champion Mango Flavored Pineapple from the National Raisin Company.
It's real dried fruit and has a dried pineapple texture, although a little on the sweet side; you just need to get over the silly concept of re-flavoring and recoloring a perfectly good dried pineapple - that's one reason 99c only Stores are so dear to the Chef: tasty food presented slightly off-kilter.

The Chef has purchased a cornucopia of dried fruits from 99c only Stores: black and golden raisins, apricots, dates, figs and the aggressively digestive prune. The simplest servings are mixed into hot oatmeal or over your favorite breakfast cereal; they also jazz up the stuffing in a baked bird, and the Chef has a delicious Stuffed Poblano Chile recipe with raisins, click here.

So keep a lookout for dried fruit, and wait until you get home before you eat these prunes!

Coming soon, a new video.
The 99 Cent Chef's years of
British Pub research yields a delicious recipe:
99 Cent Fish & Chips!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Taco Trucks & Carne Asada Is Not A Crime - 2 Video Shorts

When in the Valley at Pick Your Part Auto Salvage looking for an odometer for his 1965 Dodge Polara Convertible, the Chef begins and ends his search with a ceviche tostada from the taco truck parked at the entrance; on the way home after a Japanese Outlaw Masters double feature at the Hollywood Egyptian Theatre, he pulls over to a La Brea Avenue taco truck for midnight charred al pastor tacos; for a work time lunch it is a short walk to the taco truck around the corner for a crunchy pork carnitas burrito. For cheap and tasty, LA taco trucks are at the top of the Chef's fast food chain.

To go with your carnitas taco, swig a medio litro of "Mexican Coke" from this 99c only Store -- one for 59 cents and made with cane sugar. Why Mexican Coke? To quote food importer Hamilton "Ham" Rousseau of Ifs Ands & Butts : "High-fructose corn syrup (used in American Coke) is actually sweeter but it leaves a film in the mouth, that film automatically diminishes your palate, blocking the sweetness. Sugar cane sucrose is cleaner and crisper. So if you are used to Coke made with corn syrup, the difference is striking."

This video of The 99 Cent Chef's favorite LA Taco Truck mural is a mindbending meld of tacos and a Hollywood action hero -- located
at about 4342 Eagle Rock Boulevard (near York Blvd.) after 5pm.

Taco Truck Video

Play it here. The video runs 1 minute 7 seconds.

It is now the law; taco trucks have to change location every hour, or face a misdemeanor charge carrying a $1000 fine and/or jail, in unincorporated parts of LA
(about 65% of the County.) Go to the website save our taco and find out ways to battle this restrictive ordinance.

The Chef is Left of Left and votes with his stomach; so he went 2 evenings ago to "Taco Libre," a taco truck rally in East LA and to show his support. The 99 Cent Chef dined on tacos al pastor -- here is a video of the event.

Taco Libre Video

Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In Praise of Boring Meatloaf

Let's face it, meatloaf is boring -- but oh so tasty. It is the only entree that goes well with soggy canned sweet peas and everyone and their mother has a meatloaf recipe. Allow The 99 Cent Chef to throw his whisk into the ring with his 99 cent version.

Ground turkey is a light alternate to a typical beef meatloaf. The Chef also has a tasty spin on Mom's classic ketchup topping: just add soy sauce. All ingredients are from the 99c only Stores (the Chef has also purchased frozen ground turkey for one dollar a pound at Ralphs and Albertsons.)

Ingredients for Meatloaf (serves 2 - 3)
1 pound 99c ground turkey - okay to use more expensive ground beef.
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 bell pepper chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1 small package mushrooms (about 6 ounces) sliced
1/4 cup half and half cream or milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon 99 cent chopped garlic - jar or fresh
1 tablespoon oil
2 slices of toasted bread, crumbled (in the photo the Chef uses leftover 99 cent dark Russian, but any favorite bread will do.)
1 teaspoon dried herbs - any combination of oregano, basil, thyme and/or sage
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Meatloaf Ketchup Topping
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoon soy sauce

Saute onions, bell pepper and mushrooms in a tablespoon of oil until tender -- about 10 minutes (add garlic half way through sauteing.) Add toasted bread and all meatloaf ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

 To a lightly oiled loaf pan add the meatloaf mix. For topping, stir together ketchup and soy sauce then spread over meatloaf.

Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees, depending how "thick" your meatloaf is (the Chef likes his molded similar to a bread loaf.) The meat loaf, when done, may have a lot of liquid in pan, just  let it cool off for 5 minutes. The meatloaf will reabsorb the juices like a sponge and create a divinely moist entree.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Artichoke Pesto Over Ricotta Cavatelli Ravioli

The 99c only Stores carry all the ingredients to make a great pesto. All you need is an herb, parmesan, toasted nuts, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice and garlic. The 99 Cent Chef has come up with a savory pesto using a 99c only Store staple -- marinated artichoke hearts.

While the Chef has not seen fresh herbs there in a while (my local ethnic market is selling one bunch of fresh parsley for 49 cents,) for this recipe use fresh basil or parsley from your window or patio garden -- you have one, don't you? Don't worry, if not, substitute dried basil, always found at 99c only Stores and grated parmesan is easy to find there lately; while most pesto recipes call for pine nuts or walnuts, the Chef found a great alternate -- roasted pumpkin seeds.

Now all you need is a ravioli to marry with the pesto; just hit the freezer case and try this one out -- Ricotta Cavatelli. You will be surprised at the fresh frozen pasta carried in this 99c only Store.

Artichoke Pesto (serves 2)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
(about 6oz.)
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
(salted seeds provide all the sodium chloride this dish needs)
1 tablespoon garlic (jar or fresh)
1/4 cup 99 cent grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons 99c olive oil blend
1 bunch fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon 99 cent fresh ground pepper (a common sight at said store)

Start a pot of boiling water for pasta. Combine all ingredients (including oil and vinegar marinade from jar of artichoke hearts) except parmesan cheese and blender together for a few seconds; then mix in grated parmesan cheese. Boil pasta per directions. To serve mix pesto and pasta together.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Deal of the Day - Savory Pork With Pecans & Green Beans

The Chef is one cheap bastard. He cringes when spending 5 -10 bucks for workday lunches. It really adds up after awhile; so part of his service to his fellow proletariat blog viewer is the Deal of the Day. Most of the 99c only Stores frozen dinners are quite bland, but the Chef has discovered a tasty one for you: South Beach Living's "Savory Pork with Pecans & Green Beans" by Kraft.

This is no typical Kraft box of mac n' cheese. The diced pork is in a brown gravy with celery and the pecan pieces give a nice crunch to typical soggy microwave fare; as for the veggie side, green beans are rescued with the addition of yellow bell pepper. Not a bad business day lunch for 99 cents. The serving amount is on the small side, so if you are used to all-you-can-eat buffets, this dish is not for you.

The Chef would recommend packing a slice of sourdough for the overabundance of pork gravy, but this would be breaking the South Beach Diet rules about carbs, wouldn't it? And you know how the Chef likes following the rules! So rating this dish on the Chef's new rating system,
9 cents being best, I give it 7.
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