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Category Archives: Crime Writers Kitchen

A funny thing happened to me when I was in Peru. I had a sudden and altogether unexpected urge to become a vegetarian. Well, actually, it was an urge to go pescatarian. You know–give up meat with the exception of seafood.

Huaca Pucllana Ruins

I remember the precise moment when it happened. We were dining at the Museo de Sitio Huaca Pucllana, where the restaurant overlooks the ruins. I’d gone to Peru expecting to be a very adventurous eater. Cuyo (guinea pig)? Sure thing. Alpaca? Of course. Snail ceviche? Bring it on. Nothing was off the proverbial table–I wanted to try all of it. But when I opened the menu and found all of these options and more on offer, I felt queasy. I couldn’t stop picturing cute little guinea pigs and sweet baby goats.

I said to Mick and his mum, “I think I’m going to become a vegetarian when I get back home.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I did end up trying the guinea pig and baby goat that night, and later in the trip I tasted a bit of Mick’s grilled alpaca. I’m not in a hurry to eat any of them again, not so much because of the cuteness factor of the animals themselves, but because the taste and textures just didn’t appeal to me. Furthermore, I haven’t been a vegetarian since I got home, not even close. I’ll probably never fully become a vegetarian, and if I ever do, I won’t officially label myself as one. I like to keep my food options open.

That said, I’ve slowly been moving toward a pescatarian diet. I’m losing interest in eating meat–red meat especially–for a variety of reasons, mostly ethical. But that’s a personal choice on my part and if I’ve learned anything in the forty-plus years I’ve been on this earth, I don’t like being judged for my own choices, so I’d better not judge others for theirs. And of course in this case, I still eat meat regularly, so it is, as Joey Tribiani so famously said, a moo point.

So right about now, I’ll bet you’re thinking wait a second, I thought this post was supposed to be about a pizza recipe? I’m getting to that. Yesterday, as part of my effort to eat more vegetarian meals, I made a delicious wild mushroom pizza with cauliflower crust.

Wild Mushrooms

 

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Cauliflower Crust

For the crust, I pretty much followed this recipe. The only change I made, because I’d run out of whole eggs, was to use three table spoons of egg whites instead of an egg. By the way, I made the spaghetti squash pizza crust featured on the same site and it was equally delicious (maybe even more so). So in my mind, these two crust recipes are interchangeable.

Here are the basic ingredients:

Cauliflower Crust Ingredients

 

1) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Cut up the cauliflower and blanch it for three minutes in boiling water.

3) Drain it and pulse in a food processor until it has a grainy texture.

4) Pour the mixture onto paper towels and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

5) Mix the cauliflower/garlic with the other ingredients in a separate bowl.

6) Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Spread the “dough” onto the sheet and use your fingers to make it as thin as possible while ensuring there are no holes.

7) Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the center of the crust is firm to the touch.

With your crust now done, you can move on to the fun part. Assembling your pizza!

While my crust was cooking, I sliced up my mushrooms (white, crimini, and oyster) and minced a few more cloves of garlic. I heated up some olive oil and sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking great care not to burn it (as I so often do). Then I added my mushrooms and softened them up a bit. I didn’t let them get too mushy though, figuring that baking would complete the job of cooking them.

I drizzled olive oil on my cauliflower crust and added about a 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Then I just spread the mushrooms over the top and put the whole thing back in the oven for about five minutes to melt the cheese.

This is the result:

pizza_pieces

The only thing I’d add the next time I make this (and I will be making it again and again) is fresh chopped parsley or basil. I’d meant to do it before serving this last night and I completely forgot.

One of the best things about this crust is the addition of the red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat. I would’ve added them to the mushrooms and garlic had they not already been included in the crust. Also, while the cauliflower (or spaghetti squash) crust isn’t the same as a bread crust, it’s quite tasty in in its own right. It’s certainly a worthy base for yummy toppings, so make this, stat.

 

I have long been a fan of Indian food and at some point I decided I wanted to try my hand at cooking it. This is the recipe book I bought:

Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India

Indian food isn’t particularly difficult to make, but it is a little time consuming. In most cases you need to marinate your meat or vegetables, and there’s a lot of chopping involved. That’s not a problem for me–I love doing food prep.

I tend to make the same recipes over and over again–lamb korma, chicken vindaloo, puri, spinach paneer. Homemade puri (puffed, fried bread) is delicious and if you don’t mind getting a little messy, it’s worth the trouble.

Today I decided I wanted to make something different, so I chose Chicken with Coconut Milk. I’m crazy about anything coconut, and I love it in curries.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Chicken thighs, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, vegetable oil, mustard seeds, onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno pepper, fennel seeds, salt, unsweetened coconut milk, and lemon juice.

Trim and cube 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Make the rub by combining 6 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Throw it all in with the chicken and mix it all about, then cover and refrigerate for one hour.

While the chicken is soaking up the spicy goodness, slice 2 cups of onion as thin as you can. Use a mandoline slicer if you have one (watch those fingers!). I have one but I was too lazy to take it out so I just sliced it up by hand. One large onion came out to about 2 cups.

Mince up 2 tsp garlic and 2 tsp ginger, then slice your jalapeno lengthwise.

Grind up a 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle.

Add 1/4 cup oil to a large covered frying pan and using medium high-heat, heat 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and 2 bay leaves until they begin to pop.

Uncover and add your onion. Stir those suckers until the edges are nice and brown, then add your garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and fennel seeds. Stir ’em up for about two minutes.

At this point your house will smell so divine you’ll wish you could bottle it.

Add the chicken and stir for another few minutes. Make sure the onion and spices don’t burn.

Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, and 1/4 cup water. Wait until it boils, then simmer partially covered for 30 minutes.

About the simmering process: I don’t generally trust simmering times. If I just “set it and forget it” I often come back to find too much or too little liquid has evaporated. In this case, after about 20 minutes of simmering the sauce seemed to be too watery so I turned up the heat a little and took off the cover entirely. Then I could monitor the consistency of the sauce before I continued with the recipe.

Did you think that was the last of the coconut milk? Oh no. When those 3o minutes are up, stir in 1/2 cup MORE coconut milk and bring to a boil again.

Finish up by adding 1 tsp fresh lemon juice.

Pour over rice (I made brown rice, which takes FOREVER) or make some of that puri I was talking about. Naan works too (garlic is always my choice).

Now, you might be asking what kind of beverage to serve with your beautiful curry. A nice lager (try Kingfisher) is a good (though filling) choice. Wine-wise, Gewürztraminer is my favorite pairing with Indian food (and nowhere else unless it’s a dry one). An Oregon Pinot Noir will work too. I’ve heard tell that Champagne pairs well with spicy Indian dishes, but I’ve never tried it–if you do you’ll have to let me know.

NOTE: I’m working on these food photos, folks. It’s a lot harder to take good ones than I thought! Also, about the speakers/computer in the background, I like to watch Hulu while I cook. Lately I’ve been watching episodes of the old Bob Newhart Show–you know, the one where he’s a shrink and married to Suzanne Pleshette.

Photo by General Sisi via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by General Sisi via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever I’m called upon to bring a dessert, fruit crumbles or cobblers are the first thing I think of. They’re quick, easy, and delicious, and I usually have all the ingredients I need to make one on hand.

Peach Crumble
Serves 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

Filling
6 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbs flour
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Topping
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix peaches, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, and cinnamon until peaches are well coated. Pour into a greased baking dish.

Mix topping ingredients together: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. Add beaten egg and mix well. Pour over peach mixture and cover as evenly as possible. Finish by drizzling melted butter over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until topping is browned and filling is bubbling.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Baba Ganoosh and Pita
Photo by Takaokun via Wikimedia Commons

I got an eggplant in my Farm Fresh to You box this week and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make baba ganoosh with it. I love this simple eggplant dip–I devour it every time we go to Taverna Tony.

Here’s the easy recipe:

Ingredients
1 large eggplant (1 pound)
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Fresh parsley (garnish)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce the eggplant 10 – 12 times with a fork and put it in a baking dish. Bake for about 50 minutes or until soft. Let cool and remove skin.

Finely chop the eggplant and combine with remaining ingredients.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve at room temperature with pita bread or crackers. Or, if you’re like me, eat it plain straight out of the bowl.

 

Photo by Cyclone Bill via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Cyclone Bill via Wikimedia Commons

Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with lasagna. I pretty much make a batch every time I entertain. Why? Because it’s delish. And because it’s a dish you can make ahead, then pop it in the oven when it’s time to eat dinner. That means I get to socialize with my guests instead of slaving away at the stove while everyone else partays.

My go-to lasagna recipe is from Cooking Dinner: Simple Italian Recipes Everyone Can Make. It features a simple meat ragu and bechemel sauce version that’s oh so yummy. But my sister-in-law is visiting from England this week and I needed a vegetarian version. This Roasted Portobello Lasagna is what I came up with (it’s basically a mash-up of a few lasagna recipes).

Roasting the portobello mushrooms brings out their rich, smoky flavor. Coupled with creamy bechemel and sharp parmesan-reggiano, this lasagna is a truly amazing dish (if I don’t say so myself).

Portobello_lasagna

This is the lasagna before it’s been baked. Even uncooked it’s beautiful!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs portobello mushrooms
Olive oil
4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/8 ground nutmeg
12 lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese

For the bechemel sauce:
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it’s just about to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a larger saucepan. When melted, remove from heat and whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue whisking, and add the heated milk about one cup at a time.

Return the mixture to low heat. Add salt and nutmeg and stir until the sauce reaches a boil. Cook for three more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

For the roasted portobellos:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove stems and slice the caps about 1/4 inch thick. Drizzle olive oil over a cookie sheet and lay the slices closely together on the pan. Drizzle more olive oil over the slices and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast portobellos for about ten minutes, until they are sizzling. Turn them over, then roast for an additional ten minutes. They will shrink considerably and become a lovely rich brown color. Set aside until ready to use.

For the lasagna noodles:
Fill a large pot with water, salt it, and bring to boil. Add the noodles and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.

Assemble the lasagna:
Ladle a spoonful of bechemel into the bottom of an 8x12x2 inch pan. Add a layer of noodles. Add another layer of bechemel, 1/3 of the mushrooms, top with a sprinkling of mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan-reggiano. Repeat 2 more times. Add a final layer of noodles, sauce, and parmesan-reggiano.

Bake the lasagna in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Allow to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Substitutions: Take a page from my friend Ben’s recipe book and use sharp white cheddar cheese instead of the mozzarella and parmesan-reggiano.

Finally, here’s where I get all food-snob on your ass. If you haven’t tried lasagna (meat or otherwise) with bechemel instead of ricotta or <shudder> cottage cheese, do yourself a favor and try it. You’ll never look at the world the same after that.

 

 

Photo by Bhaskaranaidu via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Bhaskaranaidu via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve made mashed cauliflower before and it was delicious. However, the recipe called for so much cream and butter it could hardly be called healthy. This week’s CSA box had cauliflower in it and as soon as I saw it I knew I was going to create my own version of mashed cauliflower.

It’s so easy, and frankly, tastes a lot better than the higher calorie version I made. This recipe can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan by substituting the chicken broth with vegetable and the dairy products with non-animal products.

Ingredients
1 large head cauliflower, stem removed, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
32 oz chicken broth
1 tbs half & half
1 tbs butter
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
Cooking spray

Bring chicken broth to a boil and add cauliflower. Cook for 5 minutes and drain. Set aside.

Spray a pan with cooking spray and over medium heat, cook garlic and shallot until soft.

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serves 4

That’s all there is to it!

Even I was impressed with the way this turned out. Try it in place of mashed potatoes. It’s lighter, lower in calories, and it’s delicious!

 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Chili isn’t necessarily all that ground-breaking a recipe, but I created my own version of slow cooker turkey chili that Mick and I love. In the winter months I make this several times a month, and during the summer it’s a quick, easy meal that doesn’t require turning on the oven.

Picture of ingredients

You’ll need one package ground turkey, two cans black beans, one can diced tomatoes, an onion, 2 cloves garlic, olive oil (not shown), chili powder, ground cumin, ground chipotle, ancho chili powder, and garlic salt.

Chopped onion and garlic

Chop that onion and garlic up.

Onions and garlic cooking

Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic.

Turkey cooked with onions and garlic

Add the ground turkey and let it cook.

Drained black beans

Meanwhile, drain and rinse your beans.

Spices

Mix up your spices: 2 tbs chili powder, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ancho chili powder, and 1 tsp chipotle powder. This mix will result in a fairly spicy chili. If you prefer a mild chili, start by decreasing the ancho chili powder to 1/2 tsp or omitting it altogether. Chipotle adds a lovely smokey flavor but you can adjust the amount of that too as it does contribute to the spiciness.

Uncooked ingredients in slow cooker

Put everything into your slow cooker and stir it up.

Chili cooked in slow cooker

Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. When it’s done, taste for salt. Add more garlic salt if needed.

bowl of turkey chili

Serve with all the fixings: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onion, chopped jalapenos, etc.

Recipe:

Ingredients
1 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbs chili powder
1 tsp garlic salt (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp chipotle powder (or to taste)

Directions
Heat a large pot on medium and add olive oil. Saute onion, and garlic until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add ground turkey and mix thoroughly. Heat until turkey is cooked through.

Add cooked turkey, beans, diced tomatoes, garlic salt, chili powder, cumin, ancho chili pepper, and chipotle powder to slow cooker. Mix thoroughly and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Check for flavor and add garlic salt if needed. Serve with condiments: fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped onions, cheddar cheese, etc.