Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Egg Sandwich

There's nothing to my latest cheap$kate recipe. You could find it at any work site food truck, and I used to get one quite often. This is early morning simplicity, just a fried egg between 2 slices of bread.

And eggs are cheap. Local markets and even chain groceries carry, or bake on site, all types of bread. Spit a warmed buttery croissant or slice off some fresh baked baguette to elevate the lowly Egg Sandwich.

The varieties of an Egg Sandwich are endless -- is the egg yoke cooked through or left runny, is the bread toasted or not, do you top the sandwich with two slices of bacon,  a slab of melting cheese, mayo, lettuce and tomato? It's up to you, just use what you have on hand. And it's certainly easy and quick enough to do any time of day. That's what I like about an Egg Sandwich. This is my version.

  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • Bread for sandwich - any type
  • Sandwich toppings - lettuce, tomato and mayo.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Teaspoon of oil or oil spray for frying egg.
Fry an egg. I break the yoke and just let it cook on one side until yoke is half cooked. That way you get some crunchy whites edges and creamy yoke. You could do a light scramble too. Of course cook the egg as you like it.

Use toasted or plain bread to build your Egg Sandwich. And top with your favorite sandwich condiments.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Denise's Eggplant Veggie Burgers

My youngest sister came out to LA this summer from Austin, Texas. I've visited Austin a few times and have always had a great time. We also get along politically, as Austin is a small pocket of Blue in a severely Red State.

When I venture into the South, I have to bite my tongue or tread lightly with my Conservative friends and relatives. (I'm more Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck than Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie than Dog Eat Dog by Ted Nugent.) But nothing settles scores quicker than hitting Stubb's for smoky, tender slices of BBQ-sliced brisket and popping open an ice-cold Lone Star Beer.

My sister and her husband Dale are old hippy souls who do their own tie-dye. They are also big outdoors types who hike, camp, cave, and take frequent trips to off-the-map Mexico locations. They have a large front yard garden and a huge compost pile in the backyard. And of course, Denise and Dale eat healthy, foraging from their garden and canning the crops. (The Whole Foods Market chain began in Austin.)

A favorite meal of Dale's is Denise's Eggplant Burger, which she was kind enough to cook in my latest recipe video below.

First off we headed to my local 99c Only Store for ingredients. Denise was skeptical but quickly saw the cheap$kate light when we hit the produce section. It carried all the fresh vegetable ingredients she needed, including eggplant (not always stocked, but frequently enough,) red bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. It also carried whole wheat buns and bread for breadcrumbs, eggs, mozzarella, dried parmesan cheese, and mayo.

I think Denise and Dale are now 99c only Store converts as you will see in the recipe video opening. Denise was literally dancing in the aisles because of all the great deals we found.

Back in the kitchen, Denise showed me how easy it is to make her Eggplant Burgers. Between the two of us, we got the chopping done and went right to sauteing the veggies. When the veggies are cooked soft, you refrigerate the mixture for about an hour to firm it up, then form and saute the eggplant patties. We ended up making enough for four, with a couple patties left over, which my wife cooked up a few days later.

Did the recipe turn me into a vegetarian? Not quite, but they were some of the best veggie burgers I've had. Big fat veggie patties seared crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside, this burger had it all. But don't take my word for it, just watch the end of the video to get other satisfied diner comments.

(And this is a rain check recipe, as extra eggplant patties can be separated by wax paper and frozen in a Ziploc bag or container for future use.)

So check out Denise's Eggplant Burger video recipe below, and see how deliciously easy it is to make your own.

Denise's Eggplant Burger - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 8 minutes, 34 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
And 99 thanks to Dale for shooting the Chef.

Ingredients (about 6-8 veggie patties, depending on eggplant size)
  • 2 medium Eggplants - diced into 1/2 inch pieces. About 8 cups total when cubed.
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onion - any type.
  • 1/4 Bell Pepper - red for the video recipe, but any color is okay.
  • Garlic – about 2 cloves minced
  • Mushrooms – one small 4 or 5-ounce package. Cleaned and sliced.
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Mozzarella/Parmesan - mostly shredded mozzarella and 4 tablespoons of cheap dried parmesan.
  • 2 cups Breadcrumbs - Okay to use dried and packaged.
  • 1 tablespoon Oil - to saute vegetables.
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Oil for frying Eggplant - may need more to keep it from sticking.
  • And 2 to 3 more tablespoons of Oil for sauteing Eggplant Patties.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste - or Cajun Seasoning, like Tony's Chachere's.
  • Bread for Veggie Burgers - I used whole wheat buns, but okay to use any favorite bun or bread slices, even pita bread. 
  • Favorite Burger Toppings like lettuce, tomato, and pickles, with mayo, mustard, and/or ketchup.

                              Saute chopped onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms in oil over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. When soft add garlic and saute for another minute.

                              Cube Eggplants into 1-inch pieces, okay to leave the skin on. In a large pan, saute Eggplant in oil over medium heat until very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. 

                              When all veggies are cooked, allow to cool for about 5 minutes before adding eggs.

                              In a large bowl mix all cooked veggie ingredients, including eggs, cheese, and bread crumbs.

                              For Homemade Breadcrumbs blend 2-3 slices of bread until finely crumbled - pulse/blend about 30 seconds.

                              Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. The eggplant mixture is quite wet and mushy, so chilling will firm it up, making it easier to work with. (If you are cooking with a BBQ grill, allow a couple of hours in the refrigerator for eggplant patties to get extra firm so they don't slip through the grating.)

                              Start to heat 2 - 3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Form chilled eggplant mixture into patties, about an inch thick and big enough to fill a hamburger bun. Cook eggplant patties for about 5-10 minutes each side until dark brown.

                              I find it best to not move the patty for 3-5 minutes, so a crust forms that helps keep the patty from breaking apart and sticking even more to the pan.

                              Depending on how small the eggplant pieces are, a few may separate from the patty - so either press them back in or chow down on loose pieces when done.

                              And make sure to loosen each patty totally from the pan, or they will break apart when turning them over.

                              While the Eggplant Patties saute, you can get out and prepare all your burger toppings for a delicious Eggplant Burger by my sister Denise.

                              The recipe is easy to half and cook with just one eggplant (one cup of breadcrumbs per eggplant, one egg, 1/2 cup of cheese, etc.)

                              The cooked texture is a mix of crunchy outside and soft, mushy interior. So it may seem undercooked, but as long as the outside is well browned, the mixed egg inside will be done.

                              Soft bread or buns are preferred as eggplant patty may squish and break when chewy bread is used.

                              If your eggplant patties are too crumbly, try adding one more egg to the mixture (which will help firm up the patties as they cook.) Also, smaller eggplant pieces will hold together better.

                              I left the skin on my eggplant so browning may be hard to see, but cook until the outside is dark brown.

                              If you are carb-phobic, Denise's Eggplant Patties are delish on their own, served with your favorite sides, or a salad.

                              Thursday, July 18, 2013

                              Roasted Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Salsa)

                              Bright and tart, The 99 Cent Chef's Roasted Salsa Verde will have you emptying a bag of tortilla chips. So I apologize for showing you how to made a delicious salsa that you can't stop dipping chips into.

                              This taco truck favorite cools down any grilled carnitas or carne asada taco filling. It's always difficult choosing sides: spicy and smokey Salsa Roja (recipe here,) fresh chopped Pico de Gallo (recipe here,) or a tart Salsa Verde.

                              Los Angeles has Latin markets in almost every neighborhood, so it's easy to find the main ingredient in a Salsa Verde, tomatillos. Even some regular markets around town carry them. And they are certainly cheap enough, usually less than a dollar per pound.

                              Select a tomatillo that's pale to bright green (under the papery husk) and hard like an apple. You are basically making a dipping sauce for chips, veggies, or a topping for tacos, burritos and enchiladas.

                              Every Lating eatery make their own version. Some are made mild with boiled and crushed tomatillos, others are roasted sweet with black flecks of charred tomatillo and chiles (my version,) and at the Border Grill, here in LA, they do theirs super sour and fresh, with what must be barely cooked, or raw tomatillos! I love them all.

                              I like to roast my tomatillos with a bit of onion, garlic and a chile or two, then blender it all together. I find that baking the veggies makes a sweeter salsa. But you could just boil the tomatillos for a few minutes or more, the longer you cook them the less tart the salsa. (Next time I'm doing the boiling method for variety.)

                              So if you can find tomatillos by all means try out the Chintzy Chef's brightly flavored Roasted Salsa Verde - it will be a new favorite for you.

                              Ingredients (enough for a party of 3-5)
                              • 3 pounds of tomatillos - or about 10 medium sized tomatillos
                              • 1 whole large onion - white or yellow
                              • 1 clove chopped garlic - or 1/2 teaspoon from jar.
                              • Salt and pepper to taste.
                              • 2 large chiles or a couple smaller ones - optional. Mild like a pastilla (poblano,) anaheim, or any peppers. Okay to add a jalapeno, but add a little at a time to desired spicyness.

                              Heat oven to 375 degrees, Peel off papery husk covering to reveal bright green tomatillos. Also peel a large onion and cut into quarters.

                              Spread out tomatillos, chiles, and chopped onion on a large cookie sheet (or large pan.) It's okay if veggies touch each other - you could even do some stacking if your pan is too small.

                              Bake for about 45 minutes until tomatillos start to brown/blacken. They do not need to blacken all over - same with the chiles. Okay to remove any ones early, that blacken too much. I like to have about half black/green tomatillos.

                              After roasting tomatillos, onion and chiles in the oven, remove and allow to cool about 5 minutes.

                              For the chiles, peel off some of the skin and remove the stems and seeds. You don't need to remove all the charred skin.

                              To a blender or food processor add the roasted tomatillos, chiles, onion and one teaspoon chopped garlic. Pulse/blend until smooth, about 30 seconds to a minute. (You can blend half the ingredients at a time if you have a small food processor like mine.)

                              Finally salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

                              I made my Roasted Salsa Verde with mildly spicy chiles, but you could leave them out for a cooler version.

                              You can just low boil or steam the tomatillos and onions for about 10-20 minutes until soft. Or simmer for 5 minutes for a fresh and tart salsa. Finally blend it all together.

                              Salsa Verde will keep a week or so refrigerated.

                              Friday, July 12, 2013

                              Oki-Dog Cheap$kate Dining Review - VIDEO

                              A culinary car crash of cultures, the Oki-Dog is a true representative of diverse Los Angeles. Combining the all-American fast food standbys of hot dogs, chile, and American cheese, with the Jewish deli classic pastrami, and wrapped in a Latin street food Mexican blanket of flour tortilla, the only thing missing is an Oriental twist. Well, the Oki-Dog fast food joint is still run by a Japanese Okinawan native, Sakai "Jimmy" Sueyoshi - so there you have it. (And at the end of this blog post is my Cheap$kate Dining video review for your viewing pleasure.)

                              Now each ingredient may not be topnotch, but when brought together, the Oki-Dog is a tasty hot mess of a burrito, and not for the faint of palate. Oozing hot cheese and chili with each bite, the two grilled hot dogs have a welcome thin-skinned snap and the thick-sliced pastrami brings it over the top with peppery, corned beef cured flavor.

                              The ingredients are fried on a flat-top stove. There are heating bins that hold boiled hot dogs and chili. The Oki-Dog is a 2 tiered construction. In the outer tortilla fold are a wiener and all the pastrami.

                              The center of the burrito is stuffed with chili, cheese, and another wiener. I haven't had the appetite to try an Oki-Bomb (sauerkraut, pickles, and onions are added) but can only imagine how huge that would be.

                              It really shouldn't work but it does. For just under 4 bucks, it's a substantial meal. If you can finish one with an order of fries, you are one hearty eater or a teenager. My own wolfing-it-all-down days are over, so half of an Oki-Dog is just about right for me - that's no problem, as this veggieless entree heats up perfectly in a microwave for a second go-round.

                              Oki-Dog is now located on Fairfax Boulevard near Melrose Avenue (since 1983,) down the street from my favorite cinema, the Silent  Movie Theater, and even closer to Fairfax High School (where alums, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, attended back in the day.) Many young and impressionable teens have had their taste buds corrupted here. But that is all part of Oki-Dog's long and checkered history you can read all about here.

                              Click on any photo to see larger.

                              Originally in West Hollywood at Vista Street on Santa Monica Boulevard, in the back pocket of Boys Town, Oki-Dog was the place to be and be seen by LA's  punk rockers in the late 1970s (punk rock facebook) Hundreds of mohawk-wearing, dyed, or shaved-headed, studded, safety-pinned, and ripped fishnet stocking-wearing kids would pack the joint at all hours of the night and early morning after punk rock shows. It's rumored to be the last place Darby Crash from the Germs hung out before he died - from the needle, not indigestion. A wild series of flyers of the punk rock scene in LA is here.

                              But don't let it's history scare you off. The look of the place may be run-down, although I just consider it eccentric. All four walls are covered with enough flotsam and jetsam to fill a flea market, and the hand-lettered menu specials would make graphic designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister envious. The clientele is all over the place, from high schoolers to too hip tourists, plus neighborhood old-timers playing video games. Oki-Dog could fit as a denizens hangout from a novel by beatnik writer William Burroughs.

                              So what is The 99 Cent Chef's Cheap$kate Dining rating of 1 to 9, 9 being best for LA's famous Oki-Dog? Well, just check out my video below to find out. And be sure to stick around for the outrageous ending that features a 24-foot-tall "Bad Dog" sculpture by Richard Jackson!
                              World Famous Oki-Dog  - VIDEO

                              Play it here, video runs 4 minutes, 19 seconds.

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

                              And 99 thanks to Drew Redford for shooting the Chef.

                              860 N. Fairfax Av.
                              Los Angeles, Ca. 90046
                              Phone: 323) 655-4166
                              Website, click here.
                              Great Facebook page, click here.
                              Mon-Thur 8AM - 2AM, Fri-Sat 9AM - 3AM, Sun 9AM - 2AM

                              also on 5056 W. Pico Blvd.
                              Facebook link for info and hours, click here.

                              Saturday, July 6, 2013

                              Avocado Crema

                              I like a recipe with just two ingredients. Especially when the recipe is as cheap and delicious as my Avocado Crema.

                              When I stop at Leo's Taco Truck (video here) and top my  midnight $1 al pastor taco with some Avocado Crema after a double feature flick at: the Hollywood Boulevard Art Nouveau Egyptian Theater, the most eclectically film programmed Cinefamily, the Quentin Tarantino benefactor of New Beverly, the Billy Wilder Theater run by UCLA Television Film and Archive in Westwood, or the movie house with the most seating legroom, Leo S. Bing at LAMCA. Fresh sliced off the fiery trompo my al pastor tacos get a dollop of avocado sauce for a perfect pairing -- cool and creamy, combined with charred slices of seasoned pork.

                              Not all taco trucks and taquerias provide an Avocado Crema, so I am always on the lookout for it. And each taco kiosk has their own recipe. Some are watery and weak, others are thick and spicy, blended with cilantro and jalapeno.

                              For my recipe, it's just avocado and Mexican crema. Here in L.A. my local Latin market often has sales of 7 small avocados for a buck. I like the compact size because it's perfect for a single serving.

                              And Mexica crema is cheap enough. Mexican crema is a milder version of regular sour cream. This recipe is adaptable so try it with any sour cream you find on sale at your local market.

                              I know that avocados are expensive outside of California, but my Avocado Crema helps stretch out the expensive fruit.

                              It's summertime and parties are happening all over town. My Avocado Crema is a perfect dip for chips and fresh chopped veggies like: carrots, celery, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and crowns of broccoli and cauliflower.

                              But my favorite use is as a taco topping. I have a slew of Mexican recipes you can try out, just click on any name to see the recipe for: Carnitas (pork), gringo-style Ground Chicken, Carne Asada (steak), Loxaco (Jewish Taco), Fish Tostada, Salmon EnchiladasChorizo and Eggs, Chiccarones (pork skin) and Potato Tacos.

                              Last weekend we threw a Carnitas Taco patio party and I made three salsas. My Pico de Gallo (recipe here) and Salsa Verde (recipe coming soon) were perfect as a tortilla chip dip and taco topping. But the Avocado Crema got the most compliments and return visits.

                              My latest rich and flavorful Latin recipe couldn't be easier to make. Be sure to set out a bowl full at your (or a friends) next party.

                              Ingredients (2-4 servings)
                              • 2 small avocados - or 1 large one.
                              • 8 ounces Mexican Crema - any sour cream, low fat or regular. Mexican Crema has a slight sour taste just like regular sour cream.
                              *Extra additions -  a few sprigs of cilantro, slice of jalapeno (add a little at a time to desired spiciness,) and a teaspoon of lime or lemon juice.

                              Couldn't be easier to make. Just slice avocado in half and remove seed then spoon out soft ripe flesh.

                              Add avocado flesh and crema (or sour cream) to a blender or food processor. Pulse and blend until creamy, for 30 seconds or so.

                              You could also just mash the avocado with a fork or potato masher and mix into sour cream. Then mash the mixture some more until fairly smooth. Doesn't have to be perfect, it's a pleasant surprise to bite into ripe avocado nuggets.

                              Best to make fresh or a few hours before serving. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Place the avocado pits in the Avocado Crema to minimize discoloring. After a few hours there still may be a thin brown film, but will still taste great -- just do a quick stir before serving.

                              Get out the chips, sliced veggies for dipping, or make one of my taco recipes and spoon it on.

                              A teaspoon of lime juice will keep the Avocado Crema fresh-looking longer, but it will change the flavor, not bad, but I prefer it without. You could also blend in a few sprigs of cilantro, I like it this way too.

                              My recipe is easy to double or quadruple for a large group. And you can use more or less avocado to suit your budget.

                              And Store ripe soft avocados in the refrigerator until ready to use, they will last longer that way.
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