Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Chef's Sunset Magazine Profile & An Under 2 Minute Salad - Video

The 99 Cent Chef takes out-of-towner Jenny Cunningham of Sunset Magazine in hand and shows her a banquet of L.A. frugal finds. Read her account in the May issue of Sunset Magazine now on newsstands, or the library if you are chintzy like The Chef. Photography is by Lisa Romerein. Some of the highlight destinations are a trip to Carney's hotdog train car on the Sunset Strip for a beer and hot dog totaling $3.50 -- to downtown destinations including: the "Too Hot Tamales's" Ciudad Restaurant for happy hour mojitos with carnitas tacos, and 35 cent cocktails at the glamorous downtown speakeasy The Edison -- a special offered from 5-7 p.m. every Thursday. A brief excerpt below:

An Under 2 Minute Salad - Video
Salads are economical, healthy and especially, quick to make. With packages of cleaned and trimmed spinach, lettuce, or mache blends of various leafy greens, crates of cherry tomatoes, canned veggies and chicken, everything is conveniently available for a speedy salad. The Chef recently noticed how quickly it can all come together during a lunch break, when a fellow worker popped open a few containers and, quicker than I could microwave my lunch, she had assembled and dug into a delicious looking salad. I complimented her leafy prowess, and made a mental note to try this at home - with a stop watch. Check out the following video to see exactly how fast the Chef tosses his salad. 
An Under 2 Minute Salad - Video

Play it here. The video runs 3 minutes 17 seconds.

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
  • 6 oz. bag of spinach
  • 15 oz.can of beets (whole, sliced, or julienne)
  • 5 oz. can of chicken, turkey or tuna
  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes (small crate)
  • 1 tbsp. each oil and vinegar - per serving 

In the video, I made a single serving; but you can add all the ingredients together for 2-3 servings. Make sure to drain liquid from canned goods. Lastly, whisk together oil and vinegar, or use your favorite salad dressing. For a work lunch salad keep canned drained ingredients in separate containers, so spinach does not get soggy.

here to embed or view video at youtube.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ingmar Bergman Swedish Meatballs

You might not think the 99 Cent Chef a fan of Swedish existentialist filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. After all, this Cinematic Chef's short food films are light, comedic fare; but don't be fooled, even comedian auteur Woody Allen ventures over to the bleak side.

While Ingmar Bergman is best known for brooding scenes of Stringbergian domestic angst, he would often include comedic elements and a touch of the frisky sex romp.

Igmar Bergman (dark beret) and Sven Nykvist (cinematographer)

This is what first attracted me, humor mixed with fatalism, when I haunted art house movie theaters upon my arrival here in the film capital just before I turned 21 years old (anyone remember The Fox Venice Theater on Lincoln Boulevard?)

Now on to a Swedish culinary classic, done in the 99 Cent Chef manner.

On my frequent trips to Swedish discount furniture store Ikea, when the window shopping and furniture gazing induces a Scandinavian-like snow blindness, this Cheap$kate Furniture-Assembling Chef always makes his way to their cafeteria to rejuvenate over a plate of Swedish Meatballs with lingonberries and boiled potatoes in a rich Cream Gravy.

To keep the price down I buy ground poultry or breakfast pork sausage, instead of more expensive ground beef.

This traditional Swedish dish appears bland but is quite flavorful with sauteed onion and nutmeg-spiced meatballs. To the poultry meatballs add some beef bouillon for extra flavor. And substitute a side of whole cranberry sauce for hard-to-find lingonberries.

In these final chilly nights of the season, this tasty fare will lift your spirits. There you have it, another cinema-inspired dish: Ingmar Bergman Swedish Meatballs.

Ingredients (serves about 4)
  • 5 slices of white bread or sourdough
  • 1/4 cup of milk or cream - added to bread.
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1lb. ground chicken or turkey - okay to use ground beef or pork.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Black Pepper to taste - no salt for me, as bouillon cubes contain plenty.
*Serve with boiled white or red potatoes, and whole cranberry sauce.

99 Cent Chef playing chess with Death

Cream Gravy Ingredients
  • 1 beef or chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of milk or half and half milk
  • Pepper to taste
Directions for Cream Gravy
Prepare Cream Gravy by heating flour for a couple of minutes, to take out raw flavor. Slowly whisk in water, milk. 

Finally, add a bouillon cube and mix well. Stir over medium heat about 5-10 minutes until gravy thickens.

Okay to make Cream Gravy as Swedish Meatballs bake.

Directions for Swedish Meatballs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Chop or tear white bread into small pieces, and soak with 1/4 cup of milk in a large bowl.

Saute chopped onion with one bouillon cube in a tbsp. of oil for 5 minutes until soft.

To a bowl of bread and milk, add ground pork and chicken (or turkey,) 2 eggs, sauteed onion, nutmeg, allspice and salt and pepper.

Mix well and form small one to two-inch meatballs and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Ovenbake about 30 - 45 minutes, until done. Okay to check and slice into one of them at the 30-minute mark. Cooking time depends on the size of meatballs.

You can also saute in batches in an oiled frying pan until cooked through and brown.

When Swedish Meatballs are done, serve topped with Cream Gravy, with a side of boiled potatoes (red or white) and whole cranberry sauce.

Load your Netflix DVD of Ingmar Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night" and enjoy the Chef's movie director themed dish.

Check out classic Ingmar Bergman in this trailer for "Smiles of a Summer Night."

And finally, this weekend is an annual Los Angeles literary highlight - The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. Hopefully this year it will be cooler and cloudy, making hanging-out at the outdoor Culinary Stage bearable. 

This 4/20 Chef is looking forward to seeing a cooking (toking) demo by the "Two Dudes", owner/chefs of Animal and a just published cookbook, "Two Dudes, One Pan", this Sunday at 11am. Also, the Literary Chef's wife will be signing her book, "Sunset Boulevard, Cruising the Heart of Los Angels", at the Ange City Press booth from 2-4pm on Sunday. Best of all it is all free, just pay for parking. 

And here, for your entertainment, is a fun photo story of our book adventures.

See you at the book fest!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Savory Chicken and Rice - Deal of the Day

98% fat free and low sodium, Campbell's "Select Harvest Savory Chicken and Long Grain Rice" soup is a healthy Deal of the Day. Just check out my photo where I hold a real spoonful next to the can photo; this is a case of truth-in-advertising. Hefty white meat chunks of chicken with large pieces of carrot, celery and plump grains of rice in a savory broth, the one pound 2 oz. can is enough for a full meal. A convenient pop top can makes this soup portable and it microwaves hot in a couple of minutes.

As with all canned foodstuffs, the veggie texture is soft with overcooking, but the real chicken chunks hold up well, and the overall flavor is not overpowered by the common canning problem of too much salt. I picked up a few cans at this 99c only Store Thursday. Nothing beats mom's chicken soup, but for 99.99 cents Campbell's Select Harvest chicken soup is a comforting Deal of the Day.

 Using The 99 Cent Chef's 9 point rating system (9 being best), I give it a 7 !

And what goes with chicken soup? Grilled cheese of course! The Chef made a "Rainy Days & Grilled Cheese" video last year that you can view here.
April is officially "Grilled Cheese Month" and L.A. is celebrating downtown next Saturday April 25 with a "Grilled Cheese Invitational" celebration, click here for details to participate as a competitor or sampler.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amy's Carrot, Pineapple & Raisin Salad

Whole, crinkle-cut, or shredded carrots are another favorite budget vegetable. Roasted or raw, eaten as a snack, a side or made into a salad, crunchy colorful carrots turn up in this Chef's crisper quite frequently. Bags of prepared carrots are alway on sale.

I borrowed my wife, Amy's, recipe for this savory salad. It is made with a creamy mayo/sour cream dressing and sprinkled with plumped raisins and sweet pineapple. Quick to make, and a bright fresh addition to a picnic, a light midday snack, or present it at a party.

Ingredients (serves 3 - 4)
1 package shredded carrots (about 1.25 lbs. or 20 ounces)
5 oz. pineapple (small can - picture shows large can)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup mayonnaise or vegan mayo
1/4 cup sour cream or vegan substitute
1 tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 tsp. lemon juice

Boil 1 cup of water, turn off, then soak raisins in hot water, so they re-plump. 

Mix mayo, sour cream, sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. 

Drain pineapple and cut into bite sizes. Combine with shredded carrots and raisins in a large bowl. 

Finally fold in mayo/sour cream mixture. Best to refrigerate a couple of hours or overnight.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Biscuit Pot Pie

This past winter the Chef has been on a home-made pot pie kick. Pot pies with leftover chicken, then turkey; pot pies topped with a traditional rolled pie crust, then with deli case canned biscuits, and even Italian garlic bread sticks. All are good, especially the roll of garlic bread sticks. Those are harder to find, so in this recipe I will stick with readily available pie crust and canned biscuits, both frequently on sale in the deli case at your local grocery store. As for filling, the Chef likes to grab seasonal veggies like asparagus and green beans, mixed in with the old reliables: red potatoes, carrots, red or yellow bell pepper, onions and frozen peas.
Of course, most pot pies are made with a grocery store bought pie crust. Well, the Chef is nothing if not unconventional, so why not use "Flaky Butter Tastin' Grands" biscuits by Pillsbury? They are often on sale at my local 99c Only Store.
If you like a super-thick crust, this is the thickest. It's like the Southern breakfast classic "biscuits and gravy," with the addition of veggies and chicken or turkey. Now, you can use any pre-packaged biscuit on sale. Biscuits are thicker than a pie crust, so after the initial pot pie baking, you may need to separate the biscuits and prop them up so the raw dough on the underside gets cooked through (see details below).
This post includes photos of both kinds of pot pie crusts. It's hard to beat a classic "pie crust" pot pie, but the Chef's "Biscuit Pot Pie" is a scrumptious alternative.

  • 2 cups total of chopped veggies, including asparagus, onion, green beans, carrots and frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced red or white potatoes (if you like potatoes more, then reverse veggies/potato ratio)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey or chicken (about one whole breast or 2 leg/thigh quarters)
  • 4 cups water (for blanching veggies for 5 minutes, thus making a quick vegetable stock. Reserve 1 cup for adding to cream sauce)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 stick of butter or 1/4 cup of oil
  • 2 cups of milk (2% or whole)
  • 1 thawed 16 oz. can of biscuits, or one pre-rolled pie crust
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. each fresh chopped herbs including parsley, thyme and sage - 1 tsp. total if dried is used.

Pot Pie Filling

No leftover turkey? Just submerge a whole chicken breast, or a couple of leg quarters, in seasoned water and boil for about 45 minutes to an hour until done; set aside to cool and shred. Use this flavorful broth instead of veggie broth. On to the pie filling.
Boil chopped carrots and potatoes until fork tender - about 15 minutes. Blanch other fresh-cut veggies in low boiling water for 2-5 minutes; a little crunch is good. Remove veggies and set aside. Reserve 1 cup of vegetable stock from blanched veggies. Melt butter and add 3/4 cup of flour to a pot. Stir and heat for a few minutes; do not brown. Slowly whisk in vegetable/chicken stock, then milk. Continue stirring until sauce starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut leftover turkey meat into bite-sized pieces. In a large, deep casserole dish add veggies, herbs, turkey and cream sauce. Fill casserole dish to about an inch from the top to give sauce boiling room. Cover dish with biscuits or a pie crust (make a few vent slits so sauce does not boil out with a pie crust - I usually put foil or a cookie sheet pan underneath just in case). For a pie crust, bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. With biscuits, after about 30 minutes, carefully check the bottom of a biscuit to see if it's still raw. If so, separate biscuits and place them on their sides, leaning against each other (you can form little pyramids) to finish cooking for 15 minutes more. However, if you like the texture of a boiled dumpling, don't do a darn thing to the biscuits - the flaky biscuit will have a dumpling like bottom. Remove pot pie from oven, reassemble biscuits on pot pie, and let it rest for about 10 minutes if you like your sauce thick.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jamaican Goat Curry

Chivo, or goat meat is on sale at my local Latin market through Tuesday (April 7th) for 99 cents a pound. Pungent and tasting of lamb, goat meat may be an aquired taste, but using the Chef's Jamaican-styled Goat Curry recipe may convince you to come over to the goat-side.

Along with onions, coconut milk and limes, the Latin market is carrying small one ounce packages of ready-to-use powdered curry; just the right amount for a large stewing pot of kid curry.

As for the goat meat, it is a packaged melange of cuts including, ribs, leg, chop and loin and according to the price sign, from Australia.

The Chef had the pleasure of attending the wedding of his brother-in-law Michael and his wife Pam in Jamaica, where I first tried Jamaican Goat Curry.

Having eaten tamer Indian curries made with vegetables or white meat chicken, I found that the local goat curry packed a spicy punch and intense gamey-mutton flavor; but sweet coconut milk helped tame the heat, along with a few local Red Stripe beers.

The addition of lime juice sets this curry apart from the India-style; citrus adds an extra level of complexity that cuts into the creamy flavor of coconut-flavored curry sauce.

One indigenous ingredient is left out in this recipe: Scotch bonnet peppers. Substitute habanero chiles instead; the 99 cent curry powder I picked up has red chile pepper included, so it's already hot enough - always taste premixed curry power for spiciness!

You can substitute any other meat or just go vegetarian* with The 99 Cent Chef's Jamaican Curry recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)
  • 2-3 lbs. of goat meat (or any meat, including chicken, beef, pork or lamb.)
  • 3 tablespoons of curry powder - for an easy substitute, okay to use ground cumin.
  • 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk (or cream - bought at 99c only Store.)
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt (optional.) 
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (optional) chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered ginger - or fresh chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped habanaro chile (optional - add a little at a time and taste for heat tolerance.) 
  • 2 tablespoon garlic chopped (jar or fresh)
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups of water or broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large deep pan or pot and brown goat meat about 15 minutes, and set aside.

Add chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger and curry powder over low/medium heat, and cook about 5 minutes until veggies soften and curry powder begins to toast. 
Return meat to pot with curry and pour in coconut milk, water, lime juice and yogurt. 

Mix well, cover and cook about 2-3 hours at a low simmer; check from time to time to stir, and add water as needed. After a couple of hours you can add a little chopped habanero chile, mix well and taste for heat tolerance. 

Uncover the last half hour so liquid reduces by half to get a thicker sauce (or mix in 1 tbsp. of flour dissolved in a 1/4 cup of water, if you are impatient). 

Some of the cuts of meat are fatty, so you may want to skim it off.

Serve Goat Curry over white or brown rice. 

*A couple of notes if you want to use chicken; you can reduce cooking time by half (beef, pork or lamb take the same amount of time as goat). For a Vegetable Curry, cook sauteed onion and bell pepper in curry sauce for a half hour, then add your favorite veggies including cauliflower, green beans, carrots and/or potato; and cook until tender. 

Warning, your kitchen and fingers will smell of curry for a couple of days!
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