Today the Cooking Journey Begins

It’s Sunday morning and I am excited to again begin my journey down the path of Le Cordon Bleu. I say again because I received this book as a gift a number of years ago but only made it to lesson 3 before having to abandon my goal of its completion. I consider myself a “follow through” kind of guy, but hey, I’m no where near perfect.

As you can see in the picture, the recipes for this meal are not that complicated when you have good blogs like Mr Chef Club. My biggest concern thus far has been trying to pronounce the French titles rather than the English. I have resorted to putting them into Google Translate and letting it speak while I attempt to copy. My wife and I both attempted Cointreau (you’d think we’d at least know how to pronounce such a popular liquor!) and utterly failed. No wonder most people just say Triple Sec.

Back to the recipes . . . I have made all of these dishes or at least done all the techniques asked for in my previous cooking experience. I’m confident but I am sure something will through me for a loop, including my two boys being contained by my wife as I cook.

The sheer electricity of this piece is how I feel things will go when I finally get down to cooking!

After Soup, There’s Hummus On A Cold Winter Day

Hummus at Work!

Yes I know. Not many people think of hummus on a cold winter day. I mean, hummus is usually a cold dish. But let me put it into context.

I’ve got two awesome boys, René and Charles. Life is great and cheery as long as a cold doesn’t hit the house. But when the colds hit, the cranky level goes a bit through the roof. This is especially true when I share in the cold that these two wonderful children bring into my life.

I hate not working. I really enjoy life and what I do. If I don’t work, then I get miserable. If I don’t work because I am sick, then, well, you can just imagine. Yesterday was that day. I was home sick and slept for almost 24 hours. I have to hand it to my wife for keeping the house sane. Remember, both my boys are sick as well and we have to constantly worry about our oldest because of asthma when he is sick.

Oh yeah, back to the hummus. I had soup beginning Tuesday night and all through the day yesterday. There is only so much soup you can take in a 48 hour period. Well, as I began to feel better this morning, I remembered the large can of chickpeas just waiting to be used.

Hence, a wonderful hummus came out of our new Ninja blender for work tonight (as you can see in the photo). Having a slightly spicy hummus on a snowy 5 degree day is nothing but wonderful after about a gallon of soup. And yes, I do wash my carrots but don’t always see the need to peel them.

I can’t give a recipe because it was eyeballed this morning. Two cups of chickpeas, juice from one lemon, some red pepper, 3 tablespoons of tahini (what’s hummus without tahini), olive oil, and some salt and pepper. I add the oil and some water to create the consistency I want as I blend. So for those of you tired of soup on a Winter day, go for the hummus . . . especially if you’ve been sick.

UPDATE: I forgot to include one of my favorite Winter pieces for this post. Therefore, here it is in all its glory, the 1st Movement of Winter by Antonio Vivaldi. Great to listen to if you need to cook in a hurry!

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: