Monday, March 20, 2017

Broccoli Rabe & Smoked Provolone - Deal of the Day

Broccoli rabe is more stem than what I am used to, and that's fine. Broccoli rabe has a slight bitterness compared to milder grocery-stocked large heads of broccoli.

For my latest Deal of the Day review of World Menu's Broccoli Rabe & Smoked Provolone, it's all about an Italian-style veggie side dish.

When defrosted, this broccoli rabe is tender but still a little crunchy --  not mushy like typical frozen veggies. World Menu does a good job of pre-cooking and freezing.

If you like large tender florets of broccoli then you may blanch at this type of more stringy, but supple, broccoli.

When microwaved the broccoli rabe sweats and the liquid is infused with smokey flavor. The smoked provolone cubes are small, but they give you enough flavor.

Once melted and mixed into veggies they add a delicious touch of richness. The smokiness does not overpower, which would be easy to do in the case of mild provolone cheese.

You do want to microwave in 30 second increments so you can catch it when the cheese is hot, but soft and melty - it would be easy to dry it out to a rubbery consistency with too much cooking.

Thankfully the ingredient list is short, mainly broccoli rabe, cheese and spices - and imported from Italy.

So on the Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give World Menu's Broccoli Rabe & Smoked Provolone a perfect 9. This is a delicious side that with careful reheating will make any meal shine.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Deli-style St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is the time to dress in green and put on your yarmulke? That's if your combining the cuisines of the Emerald Isle and the Promised Land. And you'll feel like you've found that leprechaun pot o' gold at the end of the Western Wall when you try my luscious Jewish recipes using Irish corned beef, that's now on sale this week.

I like traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage and it's easy enough to make, but for the money I like my corned beef between 2 slices of rye and topped with a cabbage coleslaw, Jewish deli-style. So just keep on reading to see my tasty recipes below for Deli Corned Beef and Homemade Pastrami.

If you didn't notice, this week is the time of cheap hunks of corned beef -- starting at $1.99 per pound! I usually clear out my freezer for this St. Patrick's Day beef celebration and stock up on a few corned beef briskets. They freeze well and I like to smoke them during my patio summer cookouts.

Corned Beef is easy to make. To a pot of water just add the package of herbs (that come in the corned beef package) and toss in a few chopped veggies. You can boil the corned beef on the stove top or bake it in the oven. I prefer the oven method, so you get a slight browned crust, but the inside will still be moist.

You'll also want a batch of coleslaw to go along with my Homemade Deli-Style Corned Beef Sandwich. Especially when cabbage is selling for pennies a pound this week. Just click here to get my Deli Coleslaw recipe.

Our most famous deli in Los Angeles is Canter's Deli on Fairfax Boulevard. They are especially know for Pastrami and Corned Beef Sandwiches.

For their 60th Anniversary at this location, they served Corned Beef on Rye Sandwiches for 60 cents! If you don't believe me, then just watch the video below as proof positive.

And if you have any meaty leftovers then add them to a breakfast scramble of Eggs and Pastrami or Corned Beef (my recipe is a click away here.)

Now, if you really want the wildest use of leftover Pastrami then go no further than the next video, on the making of an Oki Dog.

It is basically a burrito with hot dogs, cheese, chili and pastrami. Yes, it's a cholesterolic artery clogging tortilla-wrapped depth charge that will literally take your breath away. Just watch the video below to see it being assembled (and click here to read all about it.)

In my Pastrami Recipe Video below, I show you how to brine a beef brisket in the refrigerator for a week. But if you buy a package of corned beef, you can skip that stage and go right to cooking it.

A package of herbs is included with corned beef. I like to grind up the herbs, add some pepper, and that becomes the dry rub for a pastrami. And the final stage is to smoke the pastrami for about an hour. So keep scrolling down to see my Corned Beef and Pastrami recipes (you can also click here to see more Pastrami Recipe photos and text.)

This St. Patty's Day post is all about the beef. So stock up on corned beef and get to cooking. And you can be sure that the Blarney Chef is not full of it this time - these are some of my best recipes.

Homemade Deli Pastrami - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 4 minutes 4 seconds.

Corned Beef Recipe Ingredients
  • 1 whole corned beef
  • Water - enough to cover brisket.
  • 1 whole chopped carrot - optional
  • 1 whole chopped onion - optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • packet of herbs that come with corned beef

Add enough fresh water to cover the brisket by an inch. Add the chopped veggies and bay leaf. Bring up the water to a boil, then lower the heat for a low simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 4 hours.

Check every hour or so to make sure the broth does not cook out. Add a 1/4 cup of water at a time, if needed. That's it -- just remove the corned beef and let it cool down enough to slice and serve.

For an oven version, add the veggies, then cover and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours. Finally, remove the cover and finish baking another hour -- this will give a nice dark brown color to the outside of the meat.

When slicing the corned beef for sandwiches make sure to cut across the grain of the meat. Of course, you'll want to try out a slice to see how yummy it is. Notice the lean meat and its rosy color inside.

For a Deli-style Corned Beef Sandwich just add mustard to rye bread. Layer on your favorite cheese, corned beef and coleslaw. From a 2.67 pound of corned beef brisket, I made 3 sandwiches. I served them to my wife, mother-in-law and our neighbor Deb -- they all raved how delicious it was. I hope you will like it too!

Directions for Cooking Pastrami - using corned beef
Remove corned beef from the package. Add corned beef brisket to a large pot with a cover and fill it with water to just above the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, cover and simmer for at least 3 hours. Check on it from time to time to make sure the water doesn't cook out (the water can cook out by a third, that's okay, as the meat will continue to steam.)

When finished boiling, remove the meat and set it to drain. Make the dry rub to coat the meat for smoking. Mix the pepper and coriander and coat all sides of the brisket.

Dry Rub Ingredients for Smoking
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander - they are the tan brown seeds in the herb package that normally comes with corned beef.
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper - okay to use less. Sometimes black pepper can overpower everything, but I like my pastrami that way.
  • Wood chips for smoking the pastrami in a BBQ grill -- about 4 cups.

Now time to smoke it. You mainly need an outdoor grill with a cover. I have a 2-burner gas grill. The object is to smoke the meat with indirect heat. That is, place the meat as far away from the flame as possible. The meat is already cooked, so you just want to smoke it at this stage. If you have a simple outdoor charcoal bbq grill then build a fire way off to one side.

The flame is for a pan of wood chips. You could even loosely wrap a large handful of chips in aluminum foil and place over hot coals or the gas flame.

Depending how hot the flame is, the wood chips should start smoking in about 5 minutes. When the smoke starts, place the boiled brisket as far away from the flame as possible and cover the grill tightly.

Check every 10 minutes or so and replace the wood chips with fresh ones as they cook away, if needed. I smoked my pastrami for an hour. Even a half hour of smoking will still give great flavor and a crunchy crusted pastrami.

In the hour of smoking I had to replace the blackened wood chips a couple of times. The meat will still heat up and brown, even away from the heat.

If you are using a coal burning grill your smoking time may be shorter, as they often burn hotter than a more controllable gas grill (about half an hour of smoking?) The length of time it takes for the wood chips to stop smoking is all the time you really need.

After the pastrami is smoked, place it on a cutting board, slice across the grain, and make a big fat pastrami sandwich - your way!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Yogurt Fruit Cup

I'm sure you've done your own version of a Yogurt Fruit Cup, well here's mine - and I think you will want to make my version some time, too.

I find that yogurt with added fruit, from the grocery cold case, is way too sweet. If you read the ingredients of most brands, you will find sugar, cane juice, and/or fructose near the top of the list.

Click on any photo to see larger.

I prefer plain yogurt with fresh fruit mixed in. That's plenty enough flavor. But if you like your yogurt sweet then add your own favorite sweetener. At least you will know how much you are adding.

And, often the fruit on the bottom of the yogurt container is cooked, so it's mushy like jam. Or, if it's not cooked, the texture will still be off.

If the only yogurt on sale has fruit on the bottom then I will spoon out the yogurt and toss the too sweet fruit.

There is a lot of cheap and tasty fruit out there to choose from. So keep an eye open for seasonal fruit that hits the bargain bins at your local grocery store, farmers market, or local fruit stand.

It is quick and easy if you use whole fruit that can be mixed into yogurt, like berries and seedless grapes.

Some fruit will not age well when peeled or sliced, turning brown quickly, like banana and apple, so you want to eat a Yogurt Fruit Cup with these right away. In general it best to make just enough of a Yogurt Fruit Cup to eat in one sitting, as other types of fruit may water down yogurt over a few hours.

Start with a banana, as they are usually the cheapest fruit. During cherry season in May and June (at least out here in Los Angeles) I can find them for around a dollar per pound.

For extra crunch add an on-sale apple. We also get mangoes and peaches cheaply at my neighborhood Latin market.

One pound plastic bins of strawberries cost 99.99 cents at the local 99c only Stores. Whole pineapples even make an appearance there.

You can mix and match any favorite fruit you find. Some fruit may come on sale if it has blemishes. Since you are slicing up the fruit, it won't matter - just cut out any damaged segments.

Start you day with a 99 Cent Chef inspired Yogurt Fruit Cup sometime, especially when fresh fruit is on sale and in season.

Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 2 small cartons of yogurt - I used plain, unflavored yogurt. You can use any type on sale.
  • 6-10 cherries - seeds removed. Okay to add more or fewer cherries.
  • 1 banana - peeled and sliced.
  • 1 mango - peeled, seed removed, and sliced.

Mangoes are a bit messy and tricky to work with. They should be ripe first, with a slight softness and yellow or reddish color, depending on the type of mango.

I like to peel them this way. First I slice into the skin from top to bottom four times. Make sure to slice intersecting at the top and bottom.

Now just peel each segment to remove half of the skin, at the widest half of mango. The mango seed is flat and wide so you want to slice off the most flesh along the seed. The seed will guide your blade, just follow the seed as you slice.

Once one side is stripped of flesh, then peel the other side and repeat, slicing along the length of the seed.

You can keep slicing around the seed to get all the mango flesh. Now just cut the mango flesh into bite sizes.

You know how to peel and slice a banana, I'm sure. Just make sure it is ripe.

Cherries are easy to peel, but can be messy, so make sure to work on a surface that is washable, as cherry juice will stain your clothes or any porous surfaces.

All I do to remove a cherry seed is cut around the middle of a cherry. Grab each half and give it a twist. One half of the cherry will separate off the seed. The other half will need to be sliced around the seed to finish removing it. Once you've done it a few times, it gets easier and quicker to do.
Once all the fruit is prepared, time to add the yogurt. I add some yogurt in the bottom of a bowl.

Next add the fruit. And finally I mix in the rest of the yogurt. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pizza with Egg - Video Recipe

Pizza for breakfast? Heck yeah! Or if you are a late breakfast eater like I am, then this goes down deliciously mid-morning after a second cup of joe. So check out my short video recipe below for a Pizza with Egg to see how quickly it all comes together.
Pizza with Egg - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minutes, 24 seconds.

Of course you can have a Pizza with Egg anytime of day. I never thought to try an egg on pizza until a vacation bike tour in Italy many years ago, where I first got an Egg Pizza at a restaurant in Venice. (Click here to see a video of my fun vacation time in Italy.)

I'm surprised egg is not used more often on fast food pizza. Like the first slice into a Mexican Huevos Rancheros where the runny egg mixes with salsa and refried beans, or a Southern breakfast of sunny side up eggs with biscuits and gravy, it's all about mixing in a creamy egg yolk. And you have it all with a hot pizza right out of the oven.

It's a rich eating experience hitting all the right savory pleasure points with egg yolk, melty cheese, and pungent basil with tomato sauce.

Lately I get precooked pizza crust cheaply at the Dollar Tree store a couple blocks away. While not the best pizza crust I've tried, the added toppings help make up for any dough deficiencies. If you find a tasty precooked pizza dough, do leave a comment and tell us all about it.

The trick to using a precooked pizza crust is to not overcook, or it will dry out like a cracker. I cook my Pizza with Egg for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees in a preheated oven. As soon as the whites of the egg are solid and cooked, and the egg yolk still runny, I immediately remove the pizza. Of course, be careful taking that first hot bite!

You could use fresh pizza dough from the deli case too, just back time it, that is, if it takes 20 minutes to cook the dough, then top the pizza with an the egg during the last 10 minutes of baking.

If you can't find individual pizza crusts then slice a whole pizza crust to the size you like and work with that. It's easy enough to use the other half later, that is if you can stand the wait.Or make a whole regular size pizza and add 2 or 3 eggs on the toppings.

I find many types of tomato sauce at dollar stores. Everything from portabella mushroom to meat flavored, and chunky eggplant to just plain tomato sauce. There are even jars of "Pizza Sauce."

Get what you like in the can or jar, although I find a jar of tomato sauce easier to refrigerate and spoon from.

I kicked my Pizza with Egg up a notch with fresh leaves of basil. I like to have a basil plant on my windowsill to pull leaves off. They go great in a Thai-style Basil and Chicken Stir Fry (my recipe is a click away here) and mixed into any favorite spaghetti dish.

You only need a few leaves as they are much more pungent than dried basil. But it's okay to sprinkle on a favorite Italian dried herb into any pizza tomato sauce you use.

Mozzarella is the preferred cheese for pizza toppings and I get small packets from 99c only Stores and Dollar Tree stores. For a serving or two, the small packets are a perfect serving size at about 3 to 5 ounces each.

I also find dried parmesan but it's not as good as what you find in a typical grocery deli case.

And many types of processed cheese can be frozen for later use. I like to freeze grated cheese because it defrosts in just a few minutes, as apposed to blocks of cheese. If what you find on sale is a block of cheese, just shred it with a box grater and freeze grated cheese in a Ziploc for later use.

Eggs aren't as cheap as they used to be, especially if you use cage and hormone free. But I can still find regular eggs for around half a dozen for a buck. Every once in a while they are on sale for a dollar per dozen.

Top the pizza with one egg, or add a couple of them if you like. I like my egg yolks runny, but you can cook it a few minutes more, until similar to a soft boiled texture.

And what's great about making your own mini-pizza is you can add as much cheese and tomato sauce as you like (or can afford.)

Tangy tomato sauce with pungent fresh basil leaves and melty cheese is the perfect platform for a fried egg. And it's so easy to do if you use packaged single serving sizes of pizza crust that are precooked, like I do. Or if you have a leftover slice then break an egg over it, and heat the slice in a toaster oven.

Give my latest cheap$kate recipe a try, I know you will like it -- ciao and buon appetito!

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here
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