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Greek Kabobs with a California Twist

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve read that tri tip can be difficult to find outside of the golden state.  Part of the sirloin primal, this cut has big, beefy flavor, but can be a bit chewy if not treated properly (click here for simple tri tip surgery instructions).  Tri tip is central to the Santa Maria style of BBQ, seasoned simply and grilled over red oak.  We decided to use it for Christmas kabobs.  It was super simple and very tasty.

Trim and cube a three pound (give or take a few ounces) roast.  Marinate overnight in the following mixture: 1/4 cup olive oil (we used orange flavored oil), 1/4 cup tangerine juice (lemon juice is fine), 4-5 large cloves garlic (minced), 1 tbs dried greek/mediterranean oregano (mexican oregano has a totally different flavor profile), 1 tsp ground coriander, salt and black pepper.  Grill or broil to desired doneness (tri tip really shouldn’t be cooked past medium well).  Turning once using high heat, it shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes per side.

Categories: Recipes Tags: ,

My Big, Fat Greek Christmas

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Oh-pah!  All we needed to round out our Greek Christmas was the Papadopouloses from the 80’s sitcom, Webster.  You might be able to tell from my header pic that I’m not Greek.  I’m actually Filipino.  It’s probably not the best angle to be able to see, but I’ve been told by many that I bear a striking resemblance to Tiger Woods (which was pretty cool up until a couple weeks ago).  So do we owe our Greek culinary expressions to my wife?  Nope, she’s Italian and Irish, which means we would have had Lasagne and Lucky Charms for Christmas.

We’re just weird like that.  We like to mix it up for the holidays, even experiment.  We’ve done a couple traditional Christmas meals with Turkey or Prime Rib.  We’ve paid homage to our respective ethnic backgrounds with Italian and Filipino celebrations.  A couple years ago we did a funky (but tasty) Mexican/American BBQ fusion in which we served up smoked brisket tacos and smoked pork tamales.

This year’s Greek spread was an all-day affair of cooking.  It was quite a bit of work, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it our forte, but I think we pretty much nailed it.  Pictured above, starting at the top and working around clockwise: spanakopita (feta cheese and spinach wrapped in phyllo), tabouli salad, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), sliced cucumbers, humus, baba ghanoush, wheat pita bread, and rice pilaf.  All these tasty sides make a fitting frame for the main event, tri-tip kabobs.

Stay tuned for recipes.

Categories: Narcissistic Ramblings Tags:

What is REAL BBQ?

December 18, 2009 2 comments

This is just semantics, I know, but when I speak of barbeque, I’m speaking a language foreign to most Californians. Growing up, BBQ was slapping some burgers, dogs or even steaks on a gas grill. Don’t get me wrong, one can cook up some mighty tasty grub on a gas grill. But think about it for a moment. How is a gas grill any different than your oven? It is just a broiler turned upside down (or right side up, depending on your perspective). I have yet to hear of anyone raving about that fragrant propane flavor. It’s the smoke from heavenly hardwood that is the heart beat of All-American BBQ! The humble ranch hands of yesterday’s legendary cattle drives turning a cheap hunk of meat into something succulent over some desert mesquite. I remember my first experience with true wood smoked BBQ. It was as if my eyes were opened to a whole new world of truth (almost like getting saved!). Silly, I know, but we really are talking about two different worlds here: 1) ribs boiled in a pot of water then slathered with sauce and charred on a gas grill; 2) ribs gently smoked in a wood pit for 6-7 hours. And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of brisket, pork butt, tri-tip… (my BBQ ode to Hebrews 11).

Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a char-grilled burger or 1,800 degree broiled steak as much as the next guy.  Probably more, actually.  But, hey, when it comes to ‘que, I’ll pass on the gas.

Categories: BBQ

Low Carb Coconut Cheesecake

December 12, 2009 2 comments

Don’t worry, if you’re not watching your carbs, just replace the Splenda with good ol’ fashioned sugar and you’ve got one guilt-full dessert!  The Fun Foodie has a tendency to have a little too much fun with food, so we mix in some low-carbing to keep the weight from getting out of hand.  We’ll pass on some of those recipes along the way.  This dessert is decadent and flavorful, not overpowered by the coconut, but just different enough to get your attention. The crust won’t fool die-hard graham cracker fans, but it is a pleasant contrast to the creamy filling.

CHEESE CAKE:
20 oz softened cream cheese (2 1/2 blocks)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup sugar/granulated Splenda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup coconut cream (not coconut milk; use heavy cream if you’re not into coconut)

LOW CARB CRUST (feel free to use a classic graham cracker crust):
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
1 egg

Mix together crust ingredients and press into a 9 inch spring form pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Add cheesecake filling and bake in a water-bath at 250 degrees for 1 hour (wrap bottom of pan in foil to prevent water from seeping in). Turn off oven but do not remove. Allow to sit in oven for another hour. Refrigerate overnight (or at least four hours).

Categories: Sweets

Festive Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 8, 2009 1 comment

The Fun Foodie’s wife has won two cookie baking contests, one with this recipe.  It is an adaptation of the fabled “Neiman Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe” urban legend.  As tasty as that story was (appealing to our natural draw to the little guy getting revenge on the big tyrant), the recipe is actually excellent.  The blended oatmeal brings out a very unique texture and flavor.  Adding red and green holiday M&Ms make them all the more festive for Christmas.

1 cup butter 
2 cups flour 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup brown sugar 
2 1/2 cups oatmeal (use blender or processor to turn into a fine powder) 
6 oz chocolate chips
6 oz Holiday M&Ms 
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz grated chocolate
2 eggs 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
2 tsp vanilla

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

If you’re a chocoholic like The Fun Foodie, use Ghirardelli’s 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips, and their Semi-Sweet Baking Bar for grating.  It really adds a punch of chocolate, without being overwhelmingly bitter.

Categories: Sweets Tags:

Some Crust Bakery

December 5, 2009 5 comments

The Fun Foodie has a bit of a culinary crush on Porto’s Bakery in Glendale (read my cyber alter-ego reviews here and here).  Good thing Porto’s is 40+ miles away or we’d have some trouble making the mortgage payment.  Some Crust Bakery in Claremont’s “Village” is much closer so we decided we’d take a chance on developing a very destructive addiction.

We stopped in just a few minutes before closing on a weeknight and they looked to be pretty wiped out.  What they did have looked exquisite.  We got the last of their chocolate drop cookies and also a couple raspberry and apricot (pictured above).  These had a very pleasing texture that was dense, moist and chewy, but fell short in the flavor department.  They use very good quality chocolate, but it wasn’t quite enough to make up for the bland-ish cookie dough.  We found this to be a problem all across the board.  The chocolate chip/walnut cookies were the same way.  Very nice, classic crackly top and chewy interior, but lacking any depth of flavor.  I’m guessing they skimp on the butter and use more shortening.

The cupcakes looked awesome and they had quite a variety of flavors.  Pictured above (starting at the top left and moving clockwise) is a chocolate on chocolate, lime crumble, “Mostess”, and Boston Cream.  A feast for the eyes, but not so much for the mouth.  They were all pretty crumbly, and the frosting was — you guessed it — a bit bland.  All-in-all, the whole experience was pretty … meh.

Porto’s, you’re still #1.

Some Crust Bakery on Urbanspoon

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

Foodie W.M.D.

December 4, 2009 1 comment

Weapons that Make for Delicious! My fellow foodies will understand the strange fulfillment found in traveling off the beaten path. To look beyond main stream, everyday brands and occassionally splurge on upscale products. Sometimes you end up going back to the normal stuff, but many times you find a gem that changes your culinary world. Allow me to share a few of these wonderful finds and encourage you to give them a try….

When it comes to BBQ sauces, my undisputed champion is Famous Dave's!  I'm so glad it's in our grocery stores now.  Until fairly recently, I had to depend on a few kind souls to bring me some from out-of-state.  I'm all about variety, so you'll pretty much always find three or four of Dave's varieties in my fridge.  Bulls Eye, the best of the main stream brands, is solid, but, as you can see, not the BBQ Family's favorite.

When it comes to BBQ sauces, my undisputed champion is Famous Dave's! I'm so glad it's in our grocery stores now. Until fairly recently, I had to depend on a few kind souls to bring me some from out-of-state. I'm all about variety, so you'll pretty much always find three or four of Dave's varieties in my fridge. Bulls Eye, the best of the main stream brands, is solid, but, as you can see, not the BBQ Family's favorite.

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Chipotles are smoked jalapenos. Dry 'em and grind 'em and you have one crazy tasty spice! Quite spicy and the smokiness really shines through. Celery salt adds a depth of flavor to my BBQ meats that can't really be described. Not terribly fragrant, but it adds just a little something in the background to make food more interesting. It is the base for my BBQ rubs. I find it doesn't mix well with Asian flavors, though. I know black pepper isn't anything out of the ordinary, but I don't think enough people grind it fresh. Totally different world from the stale pre-ground stuff you buy in those little red and white cans. Get yourself a pepper mill and you'll never go back!

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And on to my Extra Virgin Olive Oil collection! Why would anyone need three different types of olive oil? First, extra virgin olive oil is all about flavor (don't confuse it with "pure olive oil"). You can't think of it like you do canola oil, which has pretty much no flavor. Olive oil is like coffee. You get distinctive flavors from various regions. My go-to stuff is pictured in the middle, Trader Joe's California Estate. It is only $4.99 for a 16.9 oz bottle. Really quite a steal for extra virgin that actually has nice flavor. Fruity and a bit nutty. The oil on the right is Los Villares. It is from Spain and has a distinctive peppery finish to it. On the left is the darling of our household, Carm from Portugal. Incredibly fruity, it works with any Italian dish. Carm and Los Villares are not cheap, so they're a special treat. Don't try to deep fry with extra virgin, you dip bread in it, make salad dressings, and drizzle on your entree. You've not truly eaten Italian until you've had it with fresh extra virgin olive oil.