Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Visit to the Himalayan Grill

A post on the Guerilla Chef blog recently alerted me to a restaurant in Sunset Beach that I had to visit.

The Guerilla Chef goes to The Himalayan Grill where he lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and it turns out there is one near me in California, too. After reading his description of the lunch buffet I just had to go.

Fayme and I met a good friend of ours, Robert, at the restaurant and cruised on in.

I have to say, my first reaction was disappointment. The Guerilla Chef recommended the lunch buffet, the restaurant’s web site said they have a lunch buffet, my menu said they have a lunch buffet...
They no longer have the lunch buffet.
Damn it!

Business owners, please take note: if you have a website, don’t build it and then forget about it. When things change in your business, change the website!

Anyway, once I got over my initial disappointment we checked out the lunch menu and made our orders. Robert ordered chicken masala, Fayme opted for tandoori chicken, and I decided on lamb curry, I just can't pass up lamb. For an accompaniment we got garlic naan bread.
The meals started off with dal soup, a lentil soup prepared with Himalayan herbs and spices. Now, brand me as a heathen if you must but I’ve never cared for lentils or other members of the legume family. They’re just not my thing, which raises hell with my love for Mexican food.
But I wanted to give these guys a chance so I dug into the soup.

Well, I may not like lentils but I guess I do like dal soup. You couldn’t have drowned an ant in what was left in my bowl.

Our meals arrived in very cool looking steel pan/plates: entrée, Basmati rice, side salad, and an unidentified spinach dish that was delicious.

My lamb curry...

Robert's chicken masala...

Fayme's tandoori chicken...

Garlic naan...

The meals were great and there was little left on any of our dishes when we pushed them away.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was very nice, staff was great, and the background music very enjoyable. Robert is a professional musician of no small talent and even he approved of the music.

Happy and full, Fayme and I...

And Robert...

Will I go back? Good question, I may. The food was very good and I’ve only touched the bare surface of what the Himalayan Grill has to offer, but that lack of the promised lunch buffet just rankles me. Once I get over that I imagine we’ll visit again. The quality of food certainly will make return visits worthwhile.

Many thanks to the Guerilla Chef for pointing me in the right direction. I highly recommend taking a look at his blog, he's a great writer covering some wonderful subjects in the food world.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken, Shrimp, Udon, Tofu, and Vegetables... MMmmmmm

I wish I'd gotten pictures of tonight's dinner but when I was putting it together I wasn't thinking of a blog post.
I wish I had been because, wow, did it ever turn out good!
I had a family pack of chicken thighs ($ .79lb at the new local Jon's Market, woohoo!) that needed to be addressed before they went bad.
I put five of the thighs in a pot of water and set it to boiling lightly. I also added a small peeled and quartered onion to the pot.
As I boned out the rest of the chicken thighs to ready them for the freezer I added the bones to the boiling pot.
After getting the meat into the freezer I cut up a few vegetables into thin slices: a carrot, a couple florettes of broccali, one yellow squash, and a small handful of snow peas (not cut). One at a time I put these vegetables into the simmering stock and pulled them out with a slotted spoon when they were cooked. I set them all aside in a bowl.
Somewhere along the way I pulled out the whole chicken thighs that were in the boiling stock. I wanted them to cook through but not loose all their "chicken" to the pot. Once these pieces were cool enough to handle I pulled off the meat, set it aside, and tossed the bones back into the pot to boil a bit longer.
I had pulled out a few shrimp from the freezer and set them aside to defrost. Once they had I peeled the shells off and put the shells in with the boiling stock. The shrimp were cooked in the stock just like the vegetables had been. Once cooked I set them aside with the vegetables.  
After the liquid in the pot had reduced a bit and it seemed as if all the flavor was out of everything I ran a strainer through the pot and discarded the chicken bones, shrimp shells, onion, and anything else the strainer caught. 
Keeping the stock boiling I put in two packages of Japanese udon noodles and cooked them per the package directions, about two minutes, adding the sauce packets at the end of the cooking.
All the cooked vegetables, the chicken, shrimp, and a handful of cubed tofu were in a big bowl and I poured the noodles and broth over it all. Ready to eat.
Holy cow, was tonight's dinner ever good. I was actually a little surprised it turned out so well.
While the process sounds as if it was somewhat complicated, it really wasn't. It turned out to be a great way to use the chicken bones and get use from what I may normally have discarded.
For some reason all this reminds me of why I took a cooking class in high school. I figured that if I wanted to eat good food it wasn't fair to rely on a girlfriend or wife to make it for me. I should learn how to make it myself.
30 some years later, I'm damn glad I had that foresight. Now, if only I'd thought about saving more money...
Happy eating!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Horror of a Magazine Recipe

During a recent visit to my Mom's she gave us a couple magazines that she was finished with.
One was a cooking magazine and reading the cover got me a little excited: Step by Step to Authentic Paella.
I don't know what it is about paella. I've never cooked it, never even eaten it. But any dish with paella's ingredients just has to be wonderful and I'm absolutely fascinated by it. I imagine I'll have to try making it pretty soon.
You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the name of the magazine. There's a reason for that.
Reading the article I saw a section on "making the shrimp-mussel broth." In this section the shrimp shells and some mussels are used to make... you guessed it... a broth. Here's an excerpt: 
Add the remaining mussels to the boiling water. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the broth into a 2-quart liquid measure, discarding the shells and mussels.
Wait... do what? Discard the mussels?
I was horrified!
Mussels aren't cheap and I'm supposed to throw these away? This author is nuts!
I do my best to not waste food. If I've got chopped pieces of something in a container so I can introduce them into a pan, they all go in. There isn't a chunk of carrot or sliver of chicken thigh that gets washed down the drain. To simply throw these mussels away with callous abandon is a sin against Mother Nature and goes completely against my principles (and wallet).
You want a seafood-type stock or broth for the dish, use fish scraps. Don't have any? Get some clam juice and make it work. But don't waste food.
You want a good recipe for paella? Don't get it from this magazine. Get it from a site like The Spanish Table. While you're there check out their paella pans. I'm lusting after one of their carbon steel models.
You know what would be even better? Make up your own recipe. Take a look at a recipe like the one linked above and then have fun from there. Paella is a country dish that should use what you've got available. Have clams but not mussels? Ok! Have rabbit but not a shred of chicken? Ok!
Sorry, Nike. I have to do this...
Just make it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You Never Know What You'll Find

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog. I guess it’s about time I got off my butt and got something in here.
I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking lately. I’ve been too busy making arrows for people. But, heck… that’s a good thing!

Here’s something food related that happened recently:
My mom and her partner love to go to yard sales. There’s just no telling what they find and sometimes they get some pretty good deals on various things. She picked up a bread machine for Fayme’s older daughter for an incredibly reasonable price.
We went up to visit my mom a couple weeks ago and she told me she had something for me. This is what she set in my hands…

And this is what I found inside the bag…

Holy cow, I’ve hit the jackpot!
Never again will I complain about bland food. Now I can take a couple bottles of lovely Tobasco in my pocket and be assured that anywhere I go I’ll be able to assure my tongue doesn’t fall asleep during the meal.

Happy eating!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jerky, part 2

London broil went on sale this week for $1.99 lb. Since I have a Pasadena gathering coming up tomorrow I thought I'd get a couple pieces and make some more jerky.
I did things a little differently this time, kind of kept it simple.
I used the teriyaki marinade again for the base and added a minced onion, crushed garlic (about 5 cloves, I like garlic), ground garlic (did I mention I like garlic?), ground coriander, ground chili, dried oregano, pickled chilis, chili sauce, smoke flavoring, and some dried parsley. That last item, the parsley, was a mistake. I thought the bottle had oregano in it. Didn't hurt, though, this was The... Best... Jerky... EVER!

Now that I know our oven has challenges at low temperatures I kept an eye on it and turned it off and on to keep the temperature low. As soon as the jerky was dry enough to stop dripping I turned the oven off entirely and put a 75w light in with the oven door shut. That worked like a champ, the jerky is dry without being too crisp.

Happy snacking and thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Homemade Beef Jerky, you'll want to read this one

I've been making beef jerky for quite a few years. I don't remember when I first made it but it must have been sometime back in the late 70's or early 80's. I've never had a smoker or dehydrator, I've just used the kitchen oven on a low setting to dry out the meat after I've marinated it.
I've made lots of different jerky recipes over the years. In fact, I doubt I've ever made it the same way twice. Partly this is because I keep trying new things and partially because I always have different ingredients available in the cupboard. I've never made a batch that wasn't snapped up immediately upon offering it to folks. I don't know if this is because of the way I make it or the fact that few meat eaters will turn down free beef jerky. Whatever the reason, I get pretty good reviews.
Wait a minute. Now that I think about it I did get one kind of negative reaction to my "recipe." In an internet forum I visit once in a while someone asked about beef jerky recipes. I posted up how I make it and thought that would be the end of it. Shortly thereafter someone else kind of chastised me for putting all the stuff into the marinade. Seems this individual thought dried meat should be made the way the native folks made it with nothing added to it, or just a bit of salt added. Well, that's fine and I'm sure some people like it that way. But I didn't think that's what the original recipe seeker was looking for and it's not what I'd be looking for if I was asking about jerky recipes. I'm not drying meat as a survival food or to see me through the winter, I'm not making it as an exercise in paleo cooking. I'm making it because I like to eat it and enjoy sharing it with my friends, and most of us like some seasoning with it.

Ok, enough of that! Let's make some kick butt Clan Taylor Beef Jerky!

Meat - I just get what's cheap. When the London broil cut comes on sale, that's what I use. I've used flank steak and brisket before and both work great, but they are a little costly. The London broil is a good slab of meat, relatively free of fat, and it goes on sale fequently. Remember, I almost always buy my meat when it's on sale.
Marinade - For convenience sake I generally get a big jar of teriyaki marinade to use as my base. I've also used soy sauce with great results. If you choose soy sauce you may want to consider mixing it with water so it's not too salty. I don't generally have that issue with teriyaki.
Spices - Use whatever you want.
No, seriously. Use whatever sounds good to you. I tend to pick the spices I use in two ways: it sounds good or I'm tired of looking at it in the cupboard.
I usually like to make my jerky a little (or a lot) spicy. I've used chili powder, salsa, fresh chilis, taco sauce, Tabasco sauce... it's all good.

Here's what I used this time.
Teriyaki marinade, onion, fresh garlic, black pepper, granulated garlic, Tabasco sauce, ground chili powder, cayenne powder, oregano, coriander seeds, dried chili flakes, Jamaican jerk seasoning, Vietnamese hot chili sauce, liquid smoke flavoring.
Here's an example of how I arrive at some of my seasonings decisions:
  • The ground black pepper has been in the cupboard for a long time and I don't use it since I started grinding it fresh, use that stuff up.
  • I've got four bottles of Tobasco, let's use one up.
  • Can't have too much garlic, let's go for fresh and granulated.
  • Coriander is used on South African biltong, must be good - in it goes.
  • Jerk sauce is seriously good stuff, can't miss that.
  • Vietnamese hot chili sauce... oh, yeah. 'Nuff said.

I'm going to toast the coriander seeds in an iron skillet to bloom out their flavor.
After toasting the seeds I crushed them with the bottom of a jar. Seriously fine smell in the kitchen at this point.

To bring all the flavors together I'll simmer the marinade for a short time. First picture is all the dry stuff, the second is with the marinade added.
Hmm, I may have went overboard on the coriander.

Here's what I got for meat. Two good pieces, not a lot of fat to trim off and lose. If the fat is left on it can go rancid after a bit. On the other hand, a little fat does taste good. I'm not really picky when I trim the fat. I get the big stuff off but I don't worry about small pieces.

The meat needs to be sliced into somewhat thin strips. Partially freezing the meat will make it easier to cut but I've found that good sharp knives make this pretty unnecessary.
The sweeping blade design of these knives is great for cutting slices. I can get a whole slice off with one motion. Sawing back and forth with the wrong knife or a dull knife will give ragged edges on the meat. The jerky will still taste great but won't look quite as nice.
I got that bottom knife at a flea market or in a junk shop somewhere. It's good quality carbon steel and takes a fine edge. It's a seriously big knife and I don't use it very often, but when I reach for it it's the best tool for the job and a real pleasure to use.

If you cut the meat across the grain, like these pieces have been, the jerky will be more tender for chewing.

These pieces were cut with the grain. They'll be a little tougher to chew but won't fall apart if I have them in my pocket while I'm hiking or hunting.
Really, either way will work fine.

Here's what I got from those two pieces of meat. This should make a pretty good amount of jerky.
There's that ugly green bowl again... still taking donations for a prettier one. I'm up to $ .75 ( found it in the washing machine).

The cooled marinade is poured over the meat and everything is mixed well. Now it's into the refrigerator for an overnight marinade.

Here's what it looks like the next day.
At this point I can't begin to describe how incredibly good this smells.

Just so the meat isn't quite as drippy as I get it into the oven, I've poured it into this colander to drain a bit.

A very rare self-portrait of the mad chef. Would you eat food from this character?

To prep the oven I've removed one rack and moved the other to the top position.
The bottom of the oven has been lined with aluminum foil. Until the meat reaches a particular levl of dryness the marinade will drip onto the bottom of the oven. Without foil down there to catch the drips I'd have a heck of a mess to clean up.

This step can be a little messy so I do the work over the bowl and have a paper towel down to catch other drips. Each piece of meat has a toothpick poked through one end and it is then hung on the rack. The meat dangles below and the toothpick keeps it from falling down.

Alrighty, the meat is all hung to dry. The oven is put on the lowest temperature. If you have an older oven with a pilot light that's probably just about perfect. Ours is temperamental so I go for the lowest setting and leave the door partly open so it doesn't get too hot inside. Remember, you're drying the meat, not cooking it.
I'll probably leave this in overnight. It should be done in the morning and I'll continue with this then.

One thing I'm interested in is the yield from this meat. I've saved the meat package information so after the jerky is done we'll be able to see how much I've ended up with as well as how much it costs per ounce to compare with store bought jerky.

Thanks for reading!

Ok, the night has passed and the jerky is done.
I had a little bit of a challenge last night. Our old stove was being persnickity and wouldn't hold a low temperature. By the time I realized this the jerky was a little dry already. I turned off the stove and put a 75watt light inside with the door closed. That seemed to do the trick for the rest of the night because the jerky looks great today.

Out of the oven, toothpicks removed, and in that old green bowl. They don't stack well in the bowl but that's still a pretty good sized pile of jerky.

It turned out to be 27 oz.

The meat was $1.99 lb for a total of $8.32.
Supplies for the marinade were about $7.00. I didn't keep good track of how much I used of what spice so I'm guesstimating on the generous side.
Total of $15.32. I am not going to factor in the cost of gas or electricity.
We're looking at $ .57 per ounce cost for the jerky. Last I looked, store bought jerky was quite a bit more than that so this looks like a pretty good deal financially.
This can also be a great family activity, especially if you have kids.
Besides, how cool is it to make your own beef jerky?

Happy cooking and thanks for reading.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I have a confession to make:
I've never made croutons.
I know, they're so easy, why have I waited so long? Well, truth to tell, the store bought croutons satisfied me, I thought they tasted good.
But, the other day I pulled a box out of the cupboard to put some on my dinner salad. The box was at the back of the top shelf and had gotten forgotten since I bought it. It must have been fairly old because when I opened it up it had moths in it (we've been having a moth issue lately and they have infected more than a few items).
Since I uncharacteristically had a partial loaf of white sandwich bread available I decided that that was the night I would learn to make croutons.

After some internet searches and came up with a basic recipe:
De-crust five slices of white bread and cut them into cubes.
Saute a couple minced garlic cloves in olive oil and butter.
Toss the bread cubes in the butter/oil/garlic mixture and let things cool a little.
I made a mixture of Parmesan cheese, thyme, oregano, and parsley and tossed the bread cubes in a paper bag with the herbs.
Bake the seasoned bread cubes at about 300° in a black iron spider, stirring occasionally, until brown.

The results were great!
However, I will do a couple things different next time.
For the Parmesan cheese I only had a tub of shaved cheese. While I tried to break it up to approximate grated cheese I had limited success. Excess cheese baked into chewy globs in the pan. They didn't taste bad but a smaller amount of grated Parmesan cheese will be better.
Rather than mince fresh garlic I will try using powdered garlic to toss with the rest of the herbs. I think this will get into the bread better. Although, it won't flavor the oil/garlic. I'll have to see which one I like best.

Bread, 5 slices, about to go under the knife.

The aftermath.

Sauteeing the minced garlic in olive oil and butter.

Tossing bread cubes in the garlic/oil/butter. I did end up adding a sprinkling more olive oil when it looked like some cubes didn't get any.

Herbs, from left, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese. The parsley flakes were camera shy.

Partway through the toasting. You can see the lumps of cheesy herbs that are forming from the excess Parmesan cheese.


If we're going to talk about croutons we may as well talk about the salad they're going on.
This is a good example of the extreme salads I like. Lettuce, bleu cheese, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, anchovies, and rotisseried chicken breast. I forgot to add the salami... dang it.
I picked up the bleu cheese at Jon's Market recently when I was in that area and it absolutely rocks! It's creamy and delicious, not at all dry and crumbly. All I remember is that it was made in Germany. I'll definitely be getting more of this.

It doesn't look like much but it's sure going to taste good.
Sorry I don't have a more photogenic bowl. I am accepting donations to get one.

Tossed, croutons added, we're ready for lift off.

Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the empty bowl. you've seen one dirty dish you've seen them all, eh?

I'm very pleased to add croutons to my skills. Fayme really enjoyed them (she ate the ones I didn't use like popcorn), I liked them, and they're easy and fun to make. I guess now I'll have to buy white bread once in a while.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Japanese Pickled Cabbage - Hakusai no Shiozuke... this is good stuff!

I love Japanese food. Given a chance I will eat that over any other international food type.

One of the dishes I particularly like is generally called tsukemono, pickled vegetables. When I have had it, tsukemono is typically served as an appetizer at the beginning of the meal. One of the types I really enjoy is a pickled Napa cabbage, called hakusai no shiozuke in Japanese.

It took me a long time to track down a recipe for this tsukemono. For a long time I had no idea what it was called. Finally, one day, a Google search turned up something good in my search for this simple dish. The Instructables site has how-to directions on a lot of things but I didn’t really expect to find food, and especially not my cherished pickled Napa cabbage. Yet, here it was. How could I not try making it?

I find it rather amusing that this dish differs from sauerkraut only in the type of cabbage used and how long it is allowed to ferment. If I’d known it was so easy to make I’d have made gallons of it by now.

You can visit the Instructables site for the hakusai no shiozuke recipe here, and you can also read my brief synopsis of it:
Cut the cabbage, layer it in a container and salt each layer. Put a plate on the top layer and use a weight to hold it down. The salted cabbage will develop a liquid that should cover the cabbage after a day or so. Let it ferment for a couple days and give it a taste. Refrigerate when done and start eating it.

The recipe is a little vague on how much salt to use. It seems as if it’s a personal preference thing. After tasting my dish I think I’ve used a little more salt than I like. It’s better when I rinse the cabbage in fresh water before eating it but I think I’ll use a bit less salt the next time I make this.
After a day had passed the cabbage still hadn’t made enough liquid to cover itself so I mixed a bit of salt water and poured that into the container. Next time I’ll probably use a slightly weaker salt solution if this is necessary.
After rinsing the cabbage and drying it in a salad spinner (new toy!) I sprinkled on a bit of soy sauce and some furikaki (dried fish flakes, sesame seeds, and seasonings - very tasty). I also tried it with some seasoned rice vinegar sprinkled over it. Both were very good.
If you get as caught up with the possibilities of tsukemono as I have you may wish to get a recipe book and a press. Amazon has Quick & Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes available as well as Tsukemono presses available in various sizes. When I have a bit of extra money on hand I’ll be getting both.

Here is where we start: fresh Napa cabbage, salt, a fermenting container, and a nice sharp cleaver... hurray, I get to cut stuff!

Laugh all you want about me enjoying cutting things in the kitchen but good tools really makes it a lot of fun. This Chinese pattern cleaver is one of the sharpest tools I have and makes things easy.

We've put the cabbage into the container by layers and salted each layer as it's put in.

It's difficult to see here but I found a clear glass plate to be the best size for this container. I used another plastic container full of water to rest on top of the glass plate to hold the cabbage down. The big secret in fermenting vegetables like this is to keep the vegetables beneath the layer of salt water. You don't want them to be exposed to the air. When the cabbage didn't form enough of its own liquid to cover I just aded in a bit of salt water to cover.

Done and about to undergo the first taste test. The whole cabbage packed into that little seaweed container to put into the refrigerator. If you look closely you can see the furikake I put on top of the cabbage.

Tsukemono is a great little side dish and it's incredibly easy to make. I will certainly be making more hakusai no shiozuke in the future as well as other types of Japanese fermented vegetables.
Happy eating!