Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Brown Banana

Woe to the brown banana, thrown out at the peak of sweetness. Unappealing in appearance -- mushy and smelly but at the height of flavor like Epoisses, an artisan runny French fromage (cheese.) Flavor a dull oatmeal or punch up pancakes with this spotty over ripened fruit. Yielding easily to a fork, a banana in this advanced maturation will mash and mix into these morning favorites. The Chef picks up bananas at his local Latin market for well under 99 cents a pound; 99c only Stores carry two-pound bags and also carry oatmeal and pancake mixes.

Mash 1/2 a banana into a serving of oatmeal. Follow oatmeal preparation directions, whether instant or regular. The Chef likes his steaming oatmeal topped with a slice of butter, a splash of milk and a squeeze of honey. For pancakes, mash 1 to 2 whole brown bananas into the batter, depending on how many pancakes are coming off the grill.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The 99 Cent Chef Plays Ball - Video

This Chef of Summer has a favorite baseball season hot dog and it is a Chicago Dog -- done in the Pink's manner. I prefer  hot dogs and buns steamed like they do at Pink's hot dog stand in Hollywood - when I catch their line shorter than a dozen people he will quickly pull over and order a Chicago Spicy Polish -- a perfectly steamed sausage with a juicy snap to the skin when bit, and piled high with lettuce and tomato.

99c only Stores carry all the necessities for this summertime ballpark classic, including many varieties of hot dogs; from chicken to beef, and even on occasion kosher and "natural" -- in sizes regular and jumbo. Traditional yellow mustard, relish, buns, lettuce and tomato fill out all the ingredients needed for a Pink's Chicago dog. Other hot dog toppings carried by 99c only Stores include: sauerkraut, chili with or sans beans, cheese and sometimes bacon.

Now for all you purists out there, I knows a proper Chicago dog is constructed on a poppy seed bun with vinegary serrano "sports" chiles, day-glow green relish, sliced tomato, a wedge of pickle, and no lettuce - I drove through Chicago once, but did not have time to stop at Fluky's for the city's namesake hot dog. Go here for a classic Chicago dog recipe. To find traditional Chicago dog locations locally, read the entertaining citywide search by Jonathan Gold, L.A. Weekly's Pulitzer Prize - awarded food writer, here.

Mom used to warn the Chef behave at the dinner table, but this hard-headed cook breaks the rules and takes playing with your food to a whole new level with this freshly cooked up video (watch for the "fowl" ball.) The Chef also pulls from the bullpen a couple of 99 Cent Players: Pete and the "Ump." These talents fire up the crowd with their 9th inning antics. 99 thanks to my neighbor the "Ump."

So crack open a beer, put mustard on your hot dog while the Chef and his 99 Cent Players take the field to entertain you!

The 99 Cent Chef Plays Ball - Video

Play it here.
The video runs 3 minutes 10 seconds.

Steamed hot dogs and buns

Chopped lettuce and tomato
Pickle relish
Yellow mustard

covered hot dogs on a steamer rack above a couple of inches of water until plump, about 10 minutes. 

Steam buns with hot dogs for about a minute; check on bun so it doesn't become soggy. 

Assemble with mustard, relish, lettuce and tomato. 

To view or embed video from youtube click here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cesar Chavez Salad

For this politically charged election year, The 99 Cent Chef throws his whisk into the ring creating a radical salad from out of left field called Cesar Chavez Salad. Named for the great civil rights leader of California farm workers, this salad's politics are green with Salinas, CA. grown romaine lettuce and avocado in a classic Ceasar dressing shot through with spicy jalapeno to match Cesar Chavez's fiery rhetoric.

Blue State foodies will love it -- as for the rest of you, just take out the avocado and jalapeno to serve a traditional Conservative Caesar Salad. The Chef welcomes all parties to his dinner table.
Ingredients for Salad
  • 1 to 2 hearts of romaine
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados sliced
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on salad
  • 1 cup 99 cent croutons

To make your own croutons drizzle sourdough bread with 99 cent olive oil blend, chopped garlic, dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper. Broil in oven a couple of minutes until bread is brown - watch carefully, it will burn easily. Slice or tear into bite size pieces - fresh warm croutons are delicious on a salad.Ingredients for Dressing (serves 2)
  • 1 tbsp. crushed or chopped garlic
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 raw egg yolks* - try discarding whites by draining between fingers; messy but quick.
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon juiced or 2 tablespoons lemon concentrate
  • 1/2 cup 99 cent olive oil blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. jalapeno chopped, fresh or pickled - optional (some people can't take the heat)


Directions for Dressing 
Combine olive oil blend, anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper; whisk until the mixture is smooth (may need to pull apart anchovies with a fork). Add chopped jalapeno a little at a time while tasting to check for your "heat" tolerance. Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away. 
Assemble the salad: tear the lettuce into a large bowl. Add dressing, Parmesan and croutons. Mix and top with sliced avocado.*RAW EGG WARNING

 The Chef suggests caution in consuming raw eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, the Chef recommends you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks and the outer shell.Next up: The 99 Cent Chef throws a curve ball of a new video to foodie baseball fans -- featuring home runs, wild pitches, a Chicago hot dog and a "fowl" ball.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tempura Over Ramen Noodles - Video

When the Chef was on NBC Nightly News in June, he cooked Japanese tempura with ramen noodles for the producers and crew to film. Fresh veggies come and go at 99c only Stores, but broccoli, carrots and mushrooms are frequently stocked. Usually, tempura is served as an entree with a dipping sauce.

I first had it served over ramen noodles at a favorite noodle restaurant called Atch-kotch, located in a Hollywood mini-mall . Frying vegetables in a tempura batter creates a light coating while keeping the veggies crunchy. For this recipe you can serve tempura as a side dish and use it as a sponge to soak up the miso flavored ramen broth. I also provide a traditional tempura dipping sauce recipe. All ingredients were purchased at this 99c only Store were the "walk and talk" was filmed.

My friend Drew tagged along to video the NBC interview. What is the saying: "You don't want to know what goes into the making of sausage?" Well, the Chef lets his audience get a glimpse into the making of his news story. So here is a short video featuring the "sausage makers."

Shooting The NBC Nightly News Story - Video

Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Ingredients for tempura batter (serves 2)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sparkling water, chilled
Ingredients for frying
  • 99 cent fish filet cut in half or 2 small filets (tilapia or pollack)
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets - small to medium florets
  • 6 whole button mushrooms
  • 4 green onions cut into finger size segments (leave about an inch of green stem)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 6 baby carrots (2 inch size)
  • 3 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • Add more veggies for a vegetarian tempura
Tempura dipping sauce:
  • 1/2 cup 99 cent white wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
2 small packages of ramen noodles per directions


Heat oil to 375 degrees (medium/high heat.) Combine tempura batter ingredients; should be consistancy of pancake batter. Clean and dry vegetables. Pat dry fish filets. Coat vegetables with batter and fry (in batches if necessary.) Batter and fry fish last. Frying should be 5 - 8 minutes for each batch; tempura batter does not need to brown like a typical fry, just enough to cook vegetables but still be crunchy. While tempura is frying prepare ramen per package directions. Serve ramen with broth; top with vegetable and fish tempura. Put tempura dipping sauce in a shallow bowl for extra dipping flavor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer Ceviche With Black Beans

A cool dish 
for a hot summer day is the 99 Cent Chef's ceviche with black beans. There are a hundred variations of ceviche and the Chef has tried quite a few - from bland American "Acapulco" chain restaurant style with semi-frozen shrimp; or L.A. San Fernando Valley taco truck "lime cooked" minced fish and onion on a crispy tostada round; to a just-across-the -border scary Tijuana fresh clam ceviche from a local street vendor using "cleaned" clams with juice, chopped onion, lime, and plain ketchup with salsa picante - it's actually quite delicious when chased with a cold Corona.

The Chef hits his local Latin market for most ceviche ingredients. Seafood is expensive so the Chef keeps a lookout for sales on imitation crab, often for 99c or less a pound.

The Chef is a fan of imitation crab or Krab. It is firm and shreds easily. Other Latin market ingredients include: cilantro, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and avocado; all cost well under 99c, although for some reason their canned black beans and tortilla chips are over a dollar - 99c only Stores stock those.

A few years ago the Chef started adding black beans and cucumber to his ceviche; the cucumber brings an extra cool crunch and black beans add extra protein and texture (for a vegetarian version leave out the Krab.) So sharpen your knife and chop up a summer ceviche.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 1 cucumber - scoop out seeds and chop
  • 1 bunch cilantro chopped
  • 15 oz. can black beans - rinse & drain
  • About 1 lb. imitation crab - shred lightly by hand
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Large avocado or 3 small - chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno chopped (raw or pickled) - optional, add a little at a time to reach desired hotness
  • 1 large 99 cent bag tortilla chips


First rinse black beans and drain away any liquid (if the juice from the can remains, it will dull the bright colors and make the ceviche mushy.) 

In a large bowl combine beans and chopped veggies (except avocado), and mix well. Add lime juice, then add avocado last, as it tends to get mushy, and mix lightly. 

I hope your knife is sharp -- this recipe involves a lot of chopping. 

Chill ceviche for an hour, if you can resist dipping in. This is a great patio party dish. Serve with tortilla chips, hot sauce, and ice cold cerveza.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Scrambled Eggs With Sundried Tomato

Sundried tomatoes in oil were one of the earliest great deals the Chef found at 99c only Stores. Buying 6 jars at a time the Chef used them in every dish he could think of -- stuffed into a buttered baked potato, sliced and sprinkled over a salad, liberally distributed in every type of pasta dish, and lastly sauteed with scrambled eggs. The oil is infused with a concentrated tomato flavor, plus it keeps the eggs from sticking to your frying pan.

Just start by heating up a few pieces of sundried tomato; then make your favorite scrambled eggs. Eggs are a great vehicle to try out an ingredient you may not be familiar with. If you're not sure what a particular herb tastes like cooked, just add a pinch to a quick one egg scramble.

Egg prices are currently all over the map. Last month, 99c only Store egg prices fluctuated from 99c a dozen to 79c cents for half a dozen.

(serves one)
2 eggs (perhaps with a splash of half & half)
2 sundried tomato halves
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat sundried tomato halves for a couple of minutes over a medium heat and break apart as they get softer. Prepare eggs for your favorite scramble and add in the pan, mixing with sundried tomatoes. Cook until eggs are as firm as you like.
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