Your dream breakfast is here

25 May

Expletives were heard the last time I served this. The phrase ‘your new crack‘ as well. And while it is a breakfast dish, you can have it any time of day. I certainly do. It’s a killer late night dish, for instance, after an extra long day at work or, well, whatever you’ve been doing late night.

I give you my Skillet Chilaquiles, a bastardized, easy version of the traditional Mexican breakfast. 

Skillet Chilaquiles2

Skillet Chilaquiles

True chilaquiles are tortillas sautéed in a spicy red or green sauce, often with shredded chicken mixed in. Fried eggs sometimes are served on top. Given my obsession with eggs, it’s no wonder I devised this version over the years using eggs as the actual sauce. What you end up with are tortillas, still a bit crispy, coasted with a luscious sheen of eggs, cheese and chilis. 

Try it once and, like me, you will start keeping all the ingredients on hand.

Chilaquiles ingredients

Ingredients for Skillet Chilaquiles

 

SKILLET CHILAQUILES 

(serves 4… you can easily halve the recipe)

Ingredients

1 small onion (red, white or sweet) diced

2 fresno chilis, sliced into thin half moons (see note below)

Cumin seed (or ground cumin but seed is better)

1 4oz can diced green chilis

dried oregano

10 eggs

mustard

creme fraiche

tortilla chips (see note below)

Mexican blend shredded cheese

Directions

– Saute onion and Fresno chilis in a pad butter and a glug or two of olive oil on medium low. Take some time with this, get them soft and lovely. Turn the heat down if they start bubbling too much. You want them soft, not brown and crispy.

– Add the diced green chili with a couple of easy shakes of cumin seed and a few easy shakes of dried oregano. Saute’ on low another 5 minutes or so.

– While the veg is sautéing, prepare your eggs:

– In  large bowl, put a dollop of mustard and a dollop of creme fraiche (or a glut of heavy whipping cream)… you won’t even know they’re there but they add great umami flavor. (Thanks to my buddy Christian Kline, a wonderful chef, for the mustard trick. I never scramble eggs without a dollop of mustard after he taught me this.) Whisk the two together, then crack your eggs into the bowl, add salt and whisk well. 

– When the veg is sautéed lovely and soft, add 1 large handful of tortilla chips per person. Toss and turn the chips with the veg until the chips are covered with fat and veg.

– Pour eggs into the skillet and begin to toss and turn the eggs and chips, slow cooking the eggs and coating the chips with the egg mixture. While you don’t have to toss and turn the whole time, be careful not to let the eggs harden on the bottom. Just keep tossing. It’s okay if the chips break a little.

– After a minute or so, add two handfuls of the cheese. Continue to toss and turn until the cheese is melted and your eggs are cooked. I like my eggs soft! But you can cook longer if, you know, you want to ruin them.

– Serve topped with another dollop of Creme Fraiche (or Mexican Crema or sour cream.) Sliced avocado is another good topping, as is your favorite hot sauce or salsa. 

NOTES:

Fresno chilis have become my favorite. A red version of Jalapeños, they are milder with a much better flavor. In a pinch you can use Jalapeños, but try to find Fresnos. Remember that the seeds are what give the heat so if you don’t like heat, don’t add the seeds. The cheese and creme fraiche, however, temper the heat quite a bit.

You can use fresh tortillas. Just cut them into small triangles and add the tortillas at the start with the onion and chili.

This dish has lots of variations. Add chorizo, bacon or sausage if you like. You could mix some chilis in adobo sauce into the eggs as well. I myself love these topped with homemade tomatillo salsa.

 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust ? A MUST TRY

11 May
Pizza Ingredients

Ingredients for Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower pizza crust

With Gluten-Free/Paleo/Ketogenic interest remaining at a fever pitch, it seems everyone is looking for terrific recipes with low/no carbs and no gluten. I myself am following the Ketogenic Diet; the older I get the more difficult it has become to lose weight and keep it off, damn it! (That gin has no carbs is a lifesaver.) But even if you couldn’t care less about avoiding gluten, today’s recipe — homemade pizza with a homemade cauliflower crust — is a mind-blowing must try. I’ll say ‘damn it’ one more time because this pizza is so damn good.

Pizza!

Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower crust

I owe this stunner to my wonderful friend Jeff, an amazing chef who constantly teaches me about cooking. He stumbled onto the recipe, perfected it and encouraged me to give it a try. Jeff and his husband Owen, btw, are in the ‘could care less’ about avoiding gluten camp. In fact, they eat more gluten than any people I’ve ever met… and yet both are annoyingly super slender. I’ll say “damn it” one more time in envy. Fortunately I love them too much to stay very annoyed. 

Other than one caveat in the next paragraph, this is a very easy recipe anyone can master. Those who follow the blog know I am not a baker and avoid anything resembling dough at all cost. I tried making my own homemade pizzas with dough a few times; what came out of the oven looked a lot more like amoebas than pizza. So if I can do this, you can too. And you will make it over and over and over again. I’ve been making these pizzas at least twice a week as of late, often more. This doesn’t so much replicate pizza exactly but gives you a new twist that is healthy, extremely tasty and gets crispy just like good thin crust pizza.

The one caveat? It involves a purchase. I don’t think I’ve ever suggested buying anything on this blog, save once giving a shoutout to buying a cast iron skillet, which is very cheap, will change your life, will pass on to the next generation and is also very effective if you have a home invasion. For this easy cauliflower crust to work, however, a very particular pizza stone is needed:

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Metal Pizza Stone at bakingsteel.com

This remarkable piece of equipment is $89 dollars. Trust me. If you like pizza of any kind, this metal pizza steel will live in your oven 24/7 and you will use it constantly. It has many other uses than this cauliflower pizza, from regular pizza to creating incredible pie crusts. But I guarantee you will make this cauliflower pizza all the time.

You can get the steel at bakingsteel.com, a wonderful company run by incredibly nice people with terrific customer service. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Click here to check out the steel.

Interest piqued? Here’s how you do it. 

CAULIFLOWER PIZZA CRUST

(for a basic pepperoni pizza)

Equipment

Baking Steel pizza steel

parchment paper

Pizza Peel (optional but makes it ridiculously easy. Click here for a cheap one.)

Ingredients (for a basic pepperoni pizza)

Crust

1 large beaten egg

2 oz powder fine Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Pecorino Romano)

8 oz. riced cauliflower

Note: Trader Joe’s sells bags of fresh riced cauliflower. Fresh is a must as you want the natural water that remains in the vegetable. Also, it’s a very good idea to weigh the cheese and cauliflower rice if you want this to turn out perfectly.

Pizza

approx. 2/3 cup pizza sauce 

4 oz grated Fontina or Mozzarella cheese (Fontina works wonders here)

Pepperoni slices

Note: Trader Joe’s sells a pretty terrific pizza sauce but I love making my own, see recipe below.

Directions

On the center rack of your oven, preheat your steel at 450 degrees for a minimum of 45 minutes. This is a must to get the crust just right. As Jeff says, your finished crust will thank you for your patience.

In a bowl, combine the beaten egg and the cheese to form a paste. Add the riced cauliflower and any seasoning. (I always add about 1/2 t of both salt and pepper, and often some fresh thyme leaves and/or a sprinkle of cracked red pepper.) Mix well. To insure an even consistency, use your hands towards the end and squish it all up really well. Jeff calls this ‘cooking therapy’ and it is indeed fun. 

Mound all the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. (I make this directly on my pizza peel.) Using your fingers and your palms, press down onto the mound, slowly spreading it out into an evenly thick round shell approximately 10.5 inches in diameter. EVEN is key here. Remember, if I can do this, you can do this. Make sure it is all connected with no gaps. 

Dough before bake

Pizza crust before baking

Slide the parchment onto the baking steel and roast for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

dough after bake

Pizza Crust after baking

(You can make the crust hours in advance. Once cool, just cover with foil or wrap. I usually do this when I am going to make more than one pizza. Just make sure the steel has been preheated again before making the actual pizza.)

*While the crust is baking or cooling, place your pepperoni slices on two layers of paper towels, cover with two more and put in the microwave for 50 seconds. This is a genius trick from Jeff. It removes a lot of grease from the pepperoni you don’t want watering down the pizza and ensures terrifically crisp pepperoni on your finished pizza.

Pepperoni after

Pepperoni after the microwave

When the crust has cooled, top your crust with 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup pizza sauce. Sprinkle evenly with 4 oz of grated Fontina cheese. Lay as many slices of pepperoni as you want, covering the cheese. Slide the pizza back on the baking steel and roast 10-12 minutes, until the top is to your liking. 

Remove from the oven and, if desired, top with chopped herbs and/or grated parmesan or pecorino romano. Slice and serve!

Pizza!

Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower crust

This is a basic recipe. The possibilities are endless. Pesto pizza, white pizza, any toppings you like, go crazy! You will thank Jeff. You will thank the Baking Steel company. You will thank me.

LOVELY TOMATO SAUCE

This sauce is perfect for many uses. I love it so much I eat it with a spoon. One of its many uses is as a terrific pizza sauce. I always double it. It freezes beautifully and you can always use a good tomato sauce.

Ingredients

2 T olive oil

1 small onion finely minced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

One 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, pureed

2 T chopped herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, whatever you like

One T butter

Directions

Combine oil and onion in a large saucepan and cook over medium-low until the onion is softening. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, until the onion is soft and the garlic is golden but not brown. 

Add the tomatoes, stir to blend and simmer, uncovered, stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes. Add the herbs and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste.

When the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency, add the pad of butter and stir to incorporate. 

If you want an incredibly smooth sauce, you can process in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Enjoy. 

Winter Greens Lasagna

11 Mar
Lasagna

Winter Greens Lasagna

Everyone loves lasagna yet I know great cooks who won’t bother to make it at home, myself included for a long while, because it seemed too much work. 

Not true, not true!

I’ve learned over the past few years lasagna can be pretty damn easy to make, particularly when someone reveals to you, as my great friend and great cook Tiffiny told me, that you don’t have to boil the lasagna noodles. That blew my mind, given the one time I tried to boil the noodles, then layer them, was a nightmare of near biblical proportions.  I never got that tray of lasagna into the oven and I never tried again until Tiff told me, no you don’t have to do that. Just layer them into the lasagna out of the box.  Genius.

Ultimately, lasagna is simply layers of flavors you stuff in the oven and bake. Yes, the layers themselves determine how good it will be and you want to make sure it isn’t too dry. But particularly with some quality store bought ingredients, you can prep and layer a terrific homemade lasagna in 30 minutes or less. Lasagna also sits beautifully so you can prep it on a Sunday, have it ready to shove in the oven when you get home Monday and then have wonderful leftovers all week. 

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The Horror of “Get Out”

23 Feb

A week away from the Oscars means a rumination on a nominated movie is a great idea. A good friend and writing mentor, Jeff Meyers, has a take on “Get Out” I find extremely thought provoking and fascinating, so much so I asked him to let me post his ideas here. Whether you liked the movie or not (I realize as much as it invigorates many of us it befuddles others) , I think you will find his essay worthy of consideration and discussion.

It’s no secret that, historically, horror has been regarded as junk entertainment, a genre that relies on cheap thrills and lurid subject matter to draw audiences. And while critics have been willing to extoll the technical and cinematic achievements of the genre, they typically overlook the thematic, intellectual, and emotional resonance of the genre.

The well-deserved nomination of Get Out for this year’s Best Picture Academy Award is only the sixth time a horror film has been considered for such an honor. The first, 1973’s The Exorcist came 45 years after the Oscars were first introduced. Since then, only The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, Pan’s Labyrinth (Best Foreign Language Oscar) and Silence Of The Lambs (the only one to win… and regarded, by some, to be a thriller rather than horror), have been given such regard. Classics like King Kong, Bride Of Frankenstein, Psycho, Alien and The Shining were all, notably, overlooked.

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This dismissal of horror as a serious-minded expression of cinematic art and opinion has such a long and pervasive history that even some its own practitioners feel a need to distance themselves from the label, lest they be devalued as artists. 

In the introduction to The Walking Dead graphic novel, creator Robert Kirkman insisted that his goal was not to scare anyone, and that he wasn’t writing horror but rather “social commentary and character.” Writer-director Jordan Peele asserted that Get Out is not a horror film but rather a “social thriller.” 

With all due respect, Kirkman and Peele are wrong. While genre labels are often fluid and inexact, there is little doubt that a graphic novel that involves hordes of flesh-eating zombies, and a movie about a mad scientist that cuts out the brains of his victims in order to replace them with someone else’s brain qualify as horror. The rejection of the label is undoubtedly the result of those long standing dismissals of the genre. 

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Spicy “Get Well” Chicken Soup

5 Feb

I’ve been sick for a month and I never get sick. Apparently the whole world is feeling it. For me, every time it seems over, with my defenses down a different bug comes barreling in and takes over. Plus, try as I might when I don’t feel well, I don’t eat well. Comfort food city, you know?

But I hit a wall this weekend: “I’ve had enough of this $@#%~!” 

So I created a spicy chicken soup designed to shock my system with fresh, healthy and spicy ingredients, something I could detox on all week. 

Spicy Get Well Soup

Turns out, though, it also happened to end up one of the best soups I’ve ever made. This is light, fresh and incredibly healthy soup with a spicy kick.  But you don’t have to have the flu to love this soup. I’m even having it for breakfast. It’s that good. 

If you do have the flu, an appetizer of my garlic salad and a bowl of this chicken soup will have you well on the way to recovery. After a weekend of eating both, I seriously feel 100 times better.

And so I present to you: 

TOM’S SPICY “GET WELL” CHICKEN SOUP

This is a great “throw a bunch of stuff in a pot without worrying too much about the amounts and it still comes out amazing” kind of recipe. You could easily vary the ingredients and it will turn out well. But use the specific ingredients noted here the first time you make it to get the genius. Then you can start messing with it.

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Best Cookbooks 2017

13 Jan

Better late than never, right?

These lists can be a bit silly because I obviously did not read nor cook from every cookbook released this year. I am a proud cookbook whore, however, and read and cooked from quite a few. These are the cookbooks I particularly loved this year, you can’t go wrong with any of them. 

And remember, if you are building a cookbook library, always a great thing to do, I have a good primer here: Building Your Cookbook Library Vol. 1.

On to the best… If you don’t want all five (!!!), see which food type strikes your fancy and pick that one. Or just buy:

GJELINA

 

Based on the recipes from one of Los Angeles’ most highly acclaimed restaurants, this is my cookbook of the year. From the wonderful recipes, much easier than you might expect, to the technique beautifully taught including marvelous pantry items to have in your cupboard and fridge, this is a book I will use the rest of my life. These are rustic dishes exploding with fresh vegetables and amazing flavors. Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, soup, vegetarian… the book has it all. I also love how easy the book is to use… many cookbooks have spines that make them difficult to prop open on the counter. Gjelina has a wonderful spine I wish every cookbook publisher would mimic. It easily flops open and stays open right where you want it. Read, cook and enjoy.

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Best Films of 2017

2 Jan

Though I am criminally behind in my viewing (see below), here is my annual list. The year started off rough, there wasn’t much I liked until suddenly the year blossomed in late fall; I saw a string of excellent movies that made 2017 feel like a pretty damn good year for features. Additionally, three of these terrific films – The Shape of Water, Coco and The Florida Project – were as visually stunning, albeit in very different ways, as any movie I’ve seen in years.

THE SHAPE OF WATER

It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Romantic. Violent. Erotic. Funny. Dazzlingly beautiful. Magnificent. 

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THE FLORIDA PROJECT

“A movie that defies traditional narrative storytelling” is always, for me, a polite way of saying “boring as hell.” Yet The Florida Project may be my favorite movie of the year (it’s a close call with The Shape Of Water.) Sean Baker’s objective look at the lives of marginalized people living in crap hotels on the outskirts of Orlando is funny, shocking, wrenching and heartfelt. It’s also a stunningly composed film. Baker and his DP, Alexis Zabe, somehow take these scummy yet colorful locales and bring beauty and art to the images. The movie also has some of the best performances you will see all year, many from non-actors. This is an amazing movie.

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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Whoa. The great playwright, Martin McDonagh, follows up his debut, In Bruges, with the blackest film comedy I’ve seen since War of the Roses. Shocking, funny and shockingly funny, none of the movie’s main characters are who they seem to be initially. Each makes a surprising journey, one of the many pleasures of the film. Save one bit of miscasting in a smaller role, the performances across the board are exemplary. I’ve seen it twice and will watch again.

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LADY BIRD

It can be hard to explain why Lady Bird is such a wonderful movie. It’s a story we’ve seen told many times before and there is nothing innovative about the filmmaking… unless “damn, that is fine filmmaking” is innovative. Given the crap we see on screen, yes it is indeed innovative. Lady Bird may be a simple story told in straightforward fashion, but the writing and acting are so strong, so enjoyable, that writer/director Greta Gerwig uncovers originality and deep emotion, making what should seem old, a coming of age story, fresh and new. I had a smile on my face the entire time I watched Lady Bird. (What a wonderful year of acting is 2017! Everyone shines in this movie.)

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COCO

Pixar seemed to lose some of its magic in the last couple of years. While Coco isn’t perfect, and there are a couple of plot revelations you can see coming from the start, the movie is a revelation because the milieu and characters are so unique, at least for mainstream cinema. Coco is also a dazzling feast for the eyes, one of the most visually arresting movies I’ve ever seen. It goes for your heart and it will get your heart. Bravo.

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THE LOST CITY OF Z

I saw this dense, challenging movie three times in the theatre and was really bummed it did not catch on, though it is easy to understand why given the complexity of both the characters and the ending. James Gray steps into David Lean territory with the true life adventure tale of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who becomes obsessed with finding a lost city of the Amazon. It all works for me: grandiose and beautiful images, a terrific score, richly written characters, and superlative performances from Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, an unrecognizable Robert Pattison (becoming such a great actor) and Sienna Miller, a chameleon who may be the best actress working in film today. It will haunt you.

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DUNKIRK

Dunkirk certainly had its detractors. But it did boffo box-office, to use Variety-speak, which is surprisingly and encouraging given the movie is a $150 million dollar art film with no lead character, no real villain and a time-jumping narrative. I loved it. Rarely have I been so tense and keyed up in a movie. Nolan and his team build an incredible amount of dread, heightened by Hans Zimmer’s innovative score, one of his best.  Easily one of Nolan’s best as well.

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GET OUT

Jordon Peele somehow crafted a funny, suspenseful horror movie that slaps you up side the head while also being incredibly satisfying, a true audience pleaser even as it challenges you. Smart, clever and a lot of fun.

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PHANTOM THREAD

Wow. I’ve never used this word before now, but this movie ravished me. Stunningly beautiful with a magnificent score, directed with PTA’s usual precision and incredible performances across the board, I loved this movie. Loved it. It has put some people off as being cold and distant. I get it. Kind of. It’s lush and romantic yet ultimately a bit disturbing. Whatever. Phantom Thread transfixed me from the start and never let go.

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I, TONYA

I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this: sharp, smart, hilarious and ultimately surprisingly deep and even moving. The filmmakers somehow make the standard mock-documentary format new and exciting. And the performances are stellar. (It has been such a wonderful year for actors.) This might just be the most purely enjoyable movie I’ve seen all year. What a blast.

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Honorable Mentions: Call Me By Your Name, The Big Sick, Baby Driver, Logan, Logan Lucky, The Disaster Artist, Blade Runner 2049

Did not yet see: Wind River, Phantom Thread, I, Tonya, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Mudbound, Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Darkest Hour, Ingrid Goes West, Good Time, Hostiles – Wish I could just stop and watch movies for a few days!

Tell us your favorites in the comments!