I Will Not Buy Chickpea Salad Again!

I really enjoy Mediterranean food! I feel very healthy for the most part when I finish a meal based on Mediterranean ingredients. The exception is the American gyro which has a pretty mutilated form of lamb. In any case, I tend to visit my local Greek store by my workplace just about every day. And everyday, I buy the same thing – chickpea salad. Then it finally dawned on me, dummy make your own!

So that’s what I did. I know most of you are thinking, “that’s not a real revelation” and “you didn’t think to do this sooner?” Well, I’m not perfect. But I did get my chickpeas at Costco and paid a measly $3 for an extra large can of chickpeas that I can use for the salad and for hummus. A package of small cans for about 1/3 the amount of chickpeas was twice that cost!

My recipe is pretty much eyeballed. About 1 cup of chickpeas, half a diced red bell pepper, half a cup of crumbled feta cheese, and equal parts lemon juice and olive oil (about 2 tablespoons each). Then just salt and pepper to taste. The most important part of the process is to let it sit for at least 3 hours in the fridge before eating. That time really causes everything to come together.

I will still visit my Greek store for times when the cupboard is empty. But, as long as I have chickpeas I’ll keep making them for about 80% less of the cost they charge!

The cooking music for today comes from Miroslav Tadic. It’ll put you in the Mediterranean mood for sure!

Everyday Bolognese

This weekend was my oldest’s birthday. Therefore, my Le Cordon Bleu lessons must take a back seat. With all the preparations, of which I really had little input due to other obligations, I was required to cook a meal before the big deal. It is one of my favorites and a standard in our household. And, the only thing I have to cut is the garlic! What more can you ask for in an everyday meal?

As you can see above, there is one knife for cutting the garlic and that is it. I am still really working on my photography. All the pictures were taken after the sun went down. We have a lot of light in our kitchen if I cook and take pics in while there is sunlight. It definitely makes for much better photography. But, living and learning is what we do. Therefore, I will press on.

The key to the recipe in my opinion is the wine. Making a bolognese without red wine in it seems almost like sacrilege. The other key is that I leave all the fat in the pan after browning the meat. I know my cardiologist won’t like me saying that, but when it comes to the taste of my bolognese the fat must stay!

Here’s the Recipe, enjoy:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Dried pasta, as much as you need (I used penne but like to use orecchiette)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (more if you want to add some on the plate)

How I do it:

So, I always tend to forget things. Put your water on to boil for the noodles. You can always turn it down a bit if you need to wait to put the noodles in. I add some salt and a bit of oil to the pasta water.

Throw down 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumble the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has started to brown.

Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute (remember, I don’t drain the fat before adding the previous ingredients). Pour 1 cup of wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Stir it up until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for, oh, 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta now according to how you like it or what the package says.

While the pasta cooks, add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side. Now, there is way too much sauce for our small family. Therefore we don’t add the entire amount of sauce but only as much for the noodles we cooked and save the rest for another two meals. Bonus!

Happy cooking!

Music to inspire your cooking comes from composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco:

First Day of School and Everyone’s Sick – Bon Appétit

One of the great joys in life is knowing that everything going “right” is never a reality. This first day of Le Cordon Bleu is no exception. My youngest has been with a cold for the a couple of days and we are waiting to see when our oldest begins his turn.

So as we wait, Kristi decided to try it on for a while. In my mind I imagined this wonderful meal with the beautiful place settings that she enjoys setting. Both boys would eat to their heart’s content and I would receive praise for such fabulous cuisine. Instead, René tried everything but ate almost nothing.

Charles ate like a king, but he is only a year so pickiness is not yet developed. And Kristi, my precious wife, was just not in much of a mood to eat. But despite it all, I think the food came out wonderfully.

The first course, Cucumber with Mint, is one of my favorites. I have had variations on this recipe before but I made it according the the book and the simplicity of the flavors was a perfect start to the meal. I had to use packaged mint leaves that were slightly wilted but the taste seemed only slightly less “minty” than fresh leaves. Success!

Cucumber Salad with Mint

Cucumber Salad with Mint

The second course consisted of the Roasted Chicken and the Sweet Peas, Chervil and Onions. I had to change exchange the chervil for parsley because the parsley was fresh as opposed to the chervil in a plastic package.

I wasn’t willing to pay the extra price for the slight variation in the two. The bird in the recipe is cooked on each side and then on it’s back for a really nice browning effect and overall doneness.

I could have let it in for 10 more minutes in the last cycle but I had a 4 year old anxiously awaiting food of any kind, which when given he didn’t eat. The meat was cooked well enough but instinct just said, “10 minutes more.” I have had roast chickens with many more spices involved but the rather subdued fresh taste of the chicken really paired well with the rest of the meal.

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken

The peas were an easy bunch to cook. But no one can deny the power of the magical combination of butter and sugar!

Sweet Peas, Chervil, and Onions

Sweet Peas, Chervil, and Onions

For dessert it was a Fruit Salad with Cointreau. For those that don’t know, Cointreau is a French made orange liquor. The taste is rather subtle but the liquor is used in many mixed drinks. This is my first time using it for cooking, or more correctly, not cooking.

Though it was my most expensive item to purchase for this meal, it made the most difference in the taste of the dish. After it sat mixed with the other ingredients, it came off with such a sweetness and satisfaction that really ended the meal perfectly.

Fruit Salad with Cointreau

Fruit Salad with Cointreau

For my first day at Le Cordon Bleu via Becks’ Kitchen, I feel quite successful. Every dish tasted well balanced and nothing too dramatic, like throwing an entire dish away, happened along the way. Though I had a sniffling, un-eating family around me, it came off as close to perfection as I could imagine.

Take yourself to France with this lovely tune by Debussy: