March 29, 2016

Tomato Sauce

Look at those poor suckers. They have no idea what's about
to happen to them.
There comes a time in every true American's life when you get a great idea from watching TV. This has been the origin story of some astonishing technological advances in computers and medicine, I assume, and it's also how I decided to make some legit tomato sauce. Come to think of it, TV may have also influenced my idea for a new olympic sport. The good news is that this recipe is super easy to make, and delicious. The bad news is that it's vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and doesn't actually require any cooking, so whenever you make it you'll probably get a bad case of the hipsters. If the infestation is allowed to grow unchecked, they'll start following you around asking about your bespoke, gluten-free, vegan, rawfood, sauce, and going on about how you should really try adding kombucha, chia seeds, and ennui to it. Just call Orkin to spray a repellent around and you should be fine. 


3 Average-Sized tomatoes (If you're unfamiliar with what an average tomato size is, get your time machine out and watch some vaudeville acts around the turn of the 20th century. Or go to a produce store)
28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 an Onion
3 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped Basil
2 TBSP fresh chopped Oregano
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

The first thing you're gonna need to do is prepare your fingers to be mangled. Because this is another time we're bringing out our homicidal friend, the box grater. Offer it a fatted calf to try and appease its fury. Then wash your tomatoes, and grate them into a bowl. Tomatoes are squishy nonsense things, so you're making the grater's job even easier than normal (It's job is to cause you pain). If, like me, through a string of heathen prayers, quick-wittedness, and sheer dumb luck, you managed to not cause yourself serious bodily harm, celebrate in whatever tradition suits you. Then open your can of crushed tomatoes, and splorp them down on top of your fresh tomatoes. Then finely chop your onions and garlic, and throw them in there. 

Best when served to an Italian or Sicilian friend who's
face you can rub it in.
Now it's time to talk about chopping basil. If you want even bits of basil, and don't want to take forever chopping it, your best bet is a chiffonade. Yes, that sounds like a French prank perpetrated on unsuspecting Americans during the second world war, like mimes and escargot, but don't worry. Just stack your smaller basil leaves inside of the larger ones, tightly roll them up into an adoreable tiny basil cigar. Slice your basil stogie into bits and add it, along with the rest of your ingredients, in with your tomato goop. Stir that nonsense together, cover it, and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to let all of the flavors come together. And that's all there is to it. Just throw that stuff down on some fresh cooked pasta, use it to make lasagna, or use it to make some insane pizza. Because this sauce would make an awesome chicago-style pizza. (pro-tip: that's what we in the using-the-english-language-business call foreshadowing. It may have something to do with a recipe coming up soon). And that's all there is to it! Enjoy making some awesome food with that sauce. Maybe even some pizza.

March 22, 2016


I didn't have a "before picture," so here. Enjoy this awesome
surplus castle picture from my trip to Ireland. You're welcome
Legend has it that the Frittata was invented in the days of yore by esteemed chef and and disgraced mime William H. Frittata. The story tells that he desperately wanted a delicious food he could carry with him and eat on the go, so he ordered a pizza. But he was cheap, and refused to tip the delivery guy, who got pissed, took the pizza for himself, and stole all of Frittata's flour so he couldn't make some himself. He told anybody who'd listen it was the "salting the earth of Carthage" of pizza delivery. Not many people listened, and those who did regretted it. The moral of the story is, don't stiff the delivery guy, or your pizza might be made out of eggs.


4 standard issue Eggs
8 oz. Italian Sausage
5 oz. Crimini Mushrooms
1 Bell Pepper
1/2 an Onion (It's often hard to find half an onion. But if you track one down you're in luck, because they usually travel in pairs)
1 TBSP Olive Oil
An unspecified amount of Salt
An unspecified amount of Black Pepper
A skillet you can stick in the oven. (Yes, technically you can stick any skillet in the oven, but you want one you can stick in the oven, while the oven is on, without any damage to your health or security deposit
Optional extras! Maybe! If you feel like it!

If, like me, you have access to fancy and wonderful kitchen equipment as a fringe benefit of your menial existence of perpetual unemployment, you're in luck! Or, at least, you're in luck in this one specific regard! Just slap a ring mold on a flat-top, fill it up with oil, sausage, and veggies, season it, add in the beaten eggs, wait for it to set, remove the mold, flip that sucker, and you're done! For the "rest of the people out there," with their "gainful, and often even fulfilling employment," we're gonna have to make do with the pots, pans, and stovetops that god gave us. So the first thing you're gonna need to do is chop your onions, peppers, mushrooms, and sausage into bits. Don't go all crazy with it. Large recognizable chunks are fine. Think "pizza toppings," not "hide the evidence." Heat up your oil in a smallish skillet and toss all that nonsense in there along with an average-sized human's pinch of salt and pepper. Saute` it over medium heat for about 5 minutes. During that 5 minutes, beat your eggs mercilessly, like the cruel egg-overlord you lie about being on your resume. Add a very small human's pinch of salt in with your eggs right before your drop them in the pan. By the way, spoiler alert, you're gonna drop the eggs in the pan.

Just think: none of this would be possible without some guy
randomly trying to eat that thing that popped out of a chicken 
Drop the eggs in the pan. They should kind of fill in the crevasses between all of your bits of veggie and sausage. Now comes the tricky part, because eggs have this fun tendency to overcook. And thanks to the stupid laws of stupid thermodynamics, they're technically still cooking once you take them off the fire. Because they're jerks. So when your eggs are starting to set up around the sides, but are still runny in the middle, throw the pan under your oven's broiler. Let it go for about a minute, just to crisp up on top. Take it out of the oven, and say a prayer to any god or sports team that you didn't keep it in there too long. Dump that sucker out on to a plate, and enjoy your awesome weird cross between a pizza and an omelet. Optional extras/substitutions include milk added into the eggs, all sorts of cheeses added on top, and pretty much any vegetable you can chop up into bits. Which is all of them. Because vegetables suck at avoiding knives.

March 15, 2016

Irish Soda Bread

This is Ireland. Leprechauns and green beer, not so much
It's that time of year again. The time of year when people dress up in green, drink alcohol, and pretend like they've known the absolute terror of driving down the wrong side of the road, a road about as wide as just one horse and buggy, while a string of trucks come at you at some stupid number of kilometers per hour. Who knows with kilometers? The point is these trucks are coming at you fast. And you can't swerve out of the way, because some Irish maniac built walls on the sides of the roads. Where was I? Oh yeah, Ireland. I went to Ireland somewhat recently, as people who stalk me through obsessive reading of this blog to glean precious geographic details about my location may be aware. And while I was there, I managed to avoid touristy and inauthentic nonsense, or what we referred to as "shillelaghs and shamrocks," to a great degree. And in that spirit, instead of giving you a recipe for some green booze or nonsense like that, I'm making some traditional Irish Soda Bread. And when I say "traditional," I mean "there are websites dedicated to preserving the heritage of this stuff." Irish people, or at least the ones who make crazy websites, take this stuff seriously. So this St. Patrick's day, when you're drunkenly pretending you're Irish to try and impress somebody in a bar, whip out a loaf of this authentic Irish fare. I'm sure they won't think you're creepy for carrying food around in your pockets.


4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1.75 Cups Buttermilk
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt

Yeah, there's not much in the ingredients department. Way-too-intense Irish website builders are pretty firm on the concept that true Soda Bread only has flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt in it. I've lost track of how many times I read the phrase "if it has more than 4 ingredients, it's a tea cake." I don't know what a tea cake is, but that seems like a super broad statement. Are buttermilk pancakes with steak and eggs a tea cake? Apparently. Anyway, the point is, that if you were expecting sugar, raisins, currants, or any other nonsense, too bad. Your tea cakes aren't welcome here, and Erin's Isle apparently has a thing or two (or way more than two) to say about where you can stick your currants.

Extra special bonus points if you burned yourself on the oven
making muffins last week, and avoided doing it again.
The first thing you're gonna need to do is dump your flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Whisk it around to mix everything together, and to aerate the flour. Add in your buttermilk, and stir by hand until it forms a dough. The longer you leave it and the more you knead it, the tougher your final product will be (because gluten), so you want to work quickly and work the dough as little as you can. Once you've freaked out several times about overworking the dough, but then gone back and worked it a little more anyway because of your crippling indecision, plop it onto a pan and form it into a disk. If you want to be super authentic, cut a cross into the top of the bread. This allows the dough to expand without forming cracks, and it allows the bread to be easily split into smaller bits. Also, if you imposing religious symbolism onto baked goods, well that's a happy bonus. Throw that mess into a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and let it cook for another 20 minutes. And that's all there is to it. You can totally chop up some garlic and mash it with salt and butter to slather on this stuff. Or not. Either way, you've got some authentic Irish awesomeness to carry with you through the never-ending throngs of shillelaghs and shamrocks, like elvish lembas into the dark heart of Mordor. Bonus points if you trade a hunk of your bread for green alcohol to consume, thus ruining the value of having made something authentically Irish in the first place. Further bonus points if you throw a loaf at somebody's head from off of a parade float.

March 8, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

I prefer wild blueberries over the ones you see in zoos
It was a rainy and dreary morning, so I made muffins. I feel like that needs some explanation, so this one time I'm going to fight my natural impulse to drop a ridiculous statement and just walk away. Or possibly more times, to be determined as I feel like it. The point is, we in the LA part of the world experienced an uncommon phenomenon known as, and I believe I'm spelling this ethnic word correctly, "weather." This made me vaguely nostalgic for my distant homeland, which made me think of all the other things I'm missing that I don't have easy access to here. Like bars that are open late, the ability to go to the bank on Sunday (Well, you can go, but you'll be the only one there), and of course Dunkin' Donuts. I used to get their Blueberry Muffins all the time. And I figure that if a minimum wage employee working for a faceless corporation can pretend to have baked delicious muffins that obviously came from a factory, I, a zero wage employee of cooking crap and writing about it, can totally actually bake delicious Blueberry Muffins from scratch. That totally makes sense.


1.5 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
10 oz. Blueberries
1/2 Cup Butter
1/3 Cup Milk
2 standard-issue Eggs
The Zest from 1 Lemon
The Juice from 1/2 a Lemon (The astute observers among you may have noticed that this leaves you with half of a zested lemon for which you have no use. Fortunately, I have expert advice on the matter: Deal with it.)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Average Sized Human's Pinch of Salt
Another 1 TBSP of Sugar
1 Small Person's Pinch of Nutmeg

The first thing you're gonna need to do is let your butter come to room temperature. This is gonna take, at a rough estimate, about 2 presidential terms, so prepare some snacks and activities. Maybe bring a sweater of pair up with somebody to make the time pass faster. Pretty much the same rules your 3rd grade teacher gave you on a class field trip apply. Once your butter is nice and room-temperatury, it's time for  the fun part, and by "fun" I mean "whisking until your arm tries to fall off out of spite." Pretty much, you're going to add your cup of sugar in with your butter, and whisk it until it gets an almost fluffy consistency. This is the part where you're really gonna feel the pain if you punked out and only waited 1 presidential term for your butter to warm up. Anyway, once your butter and sugar are together, whisk in your eggs, one at a time (this gives your second egg a chance to watch his fate, and the fear that he develops releases chemicals throughout his egg body that are delicious), followed by your vanilla, lemon juice, and milk. Grab a second bowl from your magic bowl cupboard that has a never-ending supply of bowls, and mix together your flour, baking powder, and salt. This is a good point to get you to start freaking out about the "muffin method," which sounds like the name of a terrible DJ for kids parties. His slogan would be "your ex will gloat about this for years." Pretty much, if you mix flour with any liquid it starts to form more and more gluten, because flour is a jerk. All that gluten will make your baked goods super bready. Which is awesome for bread. Not so much for muffins. So you want to minimize the mixing as much as you can.

Adorable muffin-cups added to show adorable bad-assery 
Add your wet mess of a bowl into your dry floury bowl and mix it for less time than you think you should. The consensus of the internet is about 10 seconds, and the internet directly stole that from Alton Brown. Make sure to nervously watch a clock the entire time you're stirring because of paranoia induced by this paragraph. Now add in your blueberries, and neurotically stir a couple more times, until they're just barely incorporated (Pro-tip: if, like me, you don't live somewhere where magical berry bushes of deliciousness provide fresh berries at reasonable prices year round, and you're using frozen berries, keep them in the freezer until the very last second. Otherwise they'll make everything purple. They might anyway. If you're using fresh berries, toss them in some flour before you mix them into your batter to help keep them from just sinking to the bottom and disappointing us all, like every politician ever). Scoop that goop into a muffin tin, and throw it in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. 20 seconds after you put your muffins in the oven, frantically run back and take them out because you realized you forgot to add the topping on. Mix your lemon zest, nutmeg, and tablespoon of sugar together, and sprinkle some on top of each fledgling muffin. Then throw them back in the oven for another 19.6-24.6 minutes. And that's all there is to delicious muffins. And you didn't even get paid minimum wage! You didn't get paid anything!

March 1, 2016


Kishke likes to spread out in the hot-tub, making
everybody pretty uncomfortable
There's a traditional dish that people of the Jewish persuasion have historically eaten on the Sabbath. It's called Cholent, and essentially is a thick stew that cooks for ever and ever until your apartment smells incredible. But you can't eat it yet, because it's 3 AM, and you have guests coming tomorrow for lunch. So it sits there, taunting you as you count down the hours until you can finally eat it. Your guests arrive (probably at least 9 hours later, unless you're hosting some super weird night-lunches like a serial killer), and you pretty much dispense with pleasantries. Or conversation. Or waiting for them to get in the door. You saw them walking up, that's good enough. It's time to eat! Preferably all in one go because for some reason, no matter how good it is, it always tastes terrible reheated. So find, kidnap, or rent some friends and family members for this one. Because we're eating a giant pot of awesomeness, in its entirety. Or else we're suffering the sophie's choice of throwing out perfectly good food, or eating a terrible reheated mess that'll only serve to remind you how incredible it was when you made it, and how much it isn't that now. In the spirit of all vaguely traditional vaguely ethnic cuisine, to be truly authentic your recipe has to have some pedigree. I adapted mine from my mother, who I'm pretty sure made it up on her own. And now it's, at least to some degree, yours. That's 3 levels of being passed down. If it doesn't taste authentic enough, pass along the recipe to somebody else real quick to give it a boost.


1 lb Beef Shank
4 standard issue White Potatoes
1 standard issue Onion
1 Cup Barley
1 24 oz. jar of Marinara
1 tsp Salt (For those of you unfamiliar with how meat becomes Kosher, part of the process is slathering it in salt. Some butchers/brands' final products are salty, some aren't. If you're using Kosher meat, use your best judgement. Then frantically adjust the seasoning when your guests arrive and you finally taste your food and discover your mistake, despite the fact that we both know it's kinda too late)
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 entire Kishke
An unspecified amount of Water
An awesome kitchen gadget that modern technology tries hard to ruin 

The first thing you're gonna need to do is find or steal a Crock Pot. Or slow cooker. Or whatever. When browsing through your local mega-mart or neighbors' houses, don't be fooled by fancy expensive slow cookers. They have digital displays, and whistles, and bells, and hooks, and timers, and they pretty much always suck. Badly. For my money, the super cheap ones with one pot, one knob, and a whole lot of sucking it up and being a man, are the best option. They give you a couple different temperature settings, and they do their very simple job very well. Once you've "acquired" an acceptable cooking vessel, it's time to throw everything inside of it. That's pretty much it. Choppity chop the onion into itty bits, and regularly chop the potatoes into larger, recognizably potato-ish, chunks. And toss them in the pot along with your barley, spices, and marinara. Then add in water until the whole mess is just barely covered. Stir it all together, and lay your Kishke (link repeated for those too lazy to click the first time) right across the top, like a sloppy drunk collapsed in an air duct.

What it lacks in variety of color, it more than makes up
for in sheer unrelenting awesome
Now it's time to turn your slow cooker on to the Low setting, cover it, and leave it for a LONG time. Like 24 hours long. Your patience will be rewarded. For those of you who started cooking before reading all the way down here, well you're in a hard situation. But, if you turn it on High for about 6 hours, and then turn it to Low for another 2, you should get a reasonably awesome result. Take the lid off of it, and just kind of bask in the warmth and deliciousness of it all. Stir everything together into the most delicious glop ever, and then serve it immediately to the friends and family you coerced a couple paragraphs ago. This is a whole pot of food. There will be leftovers. This cannot stand. You'll be on a crazy high from delicious food. You'll be doubting the warnings I gave you about trying to reheat it, and the ensuing crappiness. You will pay for your mistrust 1000 times over. Don't be that guy. Your only option is to splork the rest of it down your gullet. Bonus points if your guests haven't left yet, and they watch you with an odd mix of revulsion and intense fascination.