Food Flight

An aviator's culinary adventures

Imitation Gyros January 27, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Sandwiches — flyingbubble @ 5:41 pm
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My hand is now famous

Gyros, are arguably my absolute favorite food in the world!  I say arguable… because me, myself and I have not completely decided on a single favorite food since there are so many delicious choices.  My parents introduced me to this delicious Greek street sandwich and despite their high standards for an “authentic” gyro I have only had a few that I didn’t love.  There’s just something about that spiced meat flavor mixed with the cool tzatziki sauce (cucumber sauce).  In the U.S. gyro meat is typically lamb or a combination of lamb and beef.  Surprisingly (or maybe its not a surprise) the gyros (truly authentic) served in Greece are most commonly pork or chicken although some places may use beef or lamb.  I visited Athens and the island of Santorini this past summer.  My friends and I were told by multiple street vendors that all gyros are made with pork and advertisements for “lamb gyros” were false, meant only to attract American tourists.  Another surprise from Athens, was the addition of fried potatoes (basically french fries) to most of their gyros sandwiches.  I was extremely disappointed that my idea of a gyro was a bit off base, but the Grecian versions were equally delicious.  I am now happy to say that I love American gyros and Greek gyros equally.  The best one I had in Athens actually didn’t even have the tzatziki sauce!  It was a small hole in the wall (literally) joint owned by an old man who did all the cooking.  He makes this incredible spicy tomato based sauce from scratch every day.  It was a perfect complement to pork, onions and tomatos (and french fries of course).  Since I’m back in American, I decided to follow a recipe for lamb version.  The flavor wasn’t exactly the same, I think the recipe is missing some key spices for the meat, but it was really good.  Also, a healthier alternative as gyro meat is typically higher fat to keep it moist while its roasting.  These sandwiches are like the New York City hot dogs of Greece.

Here’s the recipe, I fried the meatballs in a skillet instead of grilling so it works either way. (I imagine grilling would be healthier from not using oil to cook)

Weight Watchers Light and Easy Cookbook

Lamb Meatball Pitas

1 lb ground lamb

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soft bread crumbs

1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

2 tsp prepared horseradish

1 tsp prepared mustard

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

4 Pita rounds (6″)

1. Prepare Cucumber Raita, allowing at least one hour for sauce to chill

Cucumber Raita

3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

2. Combine lamb, parsley, breadcrumbs, mint, horseradish, mustard, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, garlic, and egg whites in a medium bowl; shape mixture into 12 small meatballs.

3. Place meatballs in a grill basket coated with cooking spray; place grill basket on rack over medium-hot coals (350-400) and grill, covered, 4 minutes on each side or until meatballs are done

4. Place 3 meatballs on each pita round, and top each serving with 1/4 cup Cucumber Raita.  Garnish each serving with fresh mint if desired.

NUTRITION: 378 calories, 39.2g carbohydrate, 8.8g fat, 6.4g fiber, 30.8g protein, 75mg cholesterol, 272mg sodium, 132mg calcium, 5.3mg iron.

NOTES:  I fried the meatballs in a skillet in peanut oil until they looked done. I used a store bought tzatziki sauce (since we already had it on hand) and we added chopped tomatoes and onions to our pitas. No french fries this time, but you’re welcome to try that sometime :).

 

Tropical Fruit Snack January 25, 2010

Filed under: breakfast,Dessert,Snacks — flyingbubble @ 6:57 pm
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The other day I felt like having a banana.  Then I remembered that we had leftover orange infused sugar in the fridge.  I pulled out the bag of sugar and saw some delicious kiwi fruits sitting in the drawer.  I sliced the banana, peeled and diced the kiwi and tossed them in a bowl.  Sprinkled my creation with orange sugar and stirred. The juices from the kiwi and banana mixed with the sugar to create a syrupy coating.  It was excellent and I wish I had thought to fill the crepes with this syrupy fruit mixture instead of just butter and sugar.  For a quick and easy fruit makeover… toss on some flavored sugar! (Regular sugar would work as well).

 

Crepes Again

Filed under: breakfast,Dessert — flyingbubble @ 1:01 am
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My dad flew into town this weekend so he could take one of our cars back to California.  It was great to see him but sad because it will be a while before we get together again.  He landed after 11pm on Friday night, so Red, mom and I stayed up to go get him (Red was definitely grumpy being up past his bedtime).  Fully expecting to sleep in on Saturday morning, Red woke me up around 8 and coaxed me into to walking and feeding him.  Around 9 we decided to go wake up the parents with slobbery kisses (well only Red did the kissing).  My sleepy dad rolls over and inquires about what we might be having for breakfast.  Naturally, my mother volunteers me to cook and starts listing meals that I know how to make!  (Apparently I’m the designated cook in the family now… didn’t see that coming when I started this blog).  My dad said that crepes sounded good, clearly unaware of the requirement for the batter to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.  Aiming to please, I agreed to cook and went to work on the batter figuring that the refrigeration was a guideline and not a rule.  My second hurdle that morning was a lack of butter… and when cooking from Julia Child’s book, that qualifies as a disaster.

I found a partial stick in my mom’s butter serving dish so I just threw that in the batter and hoped it would be close enough to the 5 Tbs I needed.  After blending the batter and putting in the fridge, it occurred to me that my mom wanted to “fill” the crepes with butter and sugar.  The only butter we had left was laced with tarragon from a steak cook out we’d had over the holidays.  With my tail between my legs, I walked back to my parents room and announced that breakfast would be delayed because I needed to run to the store for butter.  My mom went with so I could just run in and out quickly.  While at the store, I also grabbed a couple oranges, green onions and mushrooms.  I started making the crepes (the batter probably chilled for about 45 minutes) and the process was far from smooth sailing.  I couldn’t seem to get the temperature right, or keep the pan at the same temperature.  I only adjusted the temperature knob once in the beginning but the crepes alternated between cooking super fast and super slow.  Some of them were a deep dark brown color that could possibly be construed as black, and some barely had any brown but some faint tan spots on both sides.  I’m attributing the cooking difficulties to the mystery amount of butter in the batter and the lack of time for the ingredients to “settle” in the fridge.  There’s just no way it could have been my fault!! (haha).  My mom made orange sugar for the filling by rubbing the sugar in orange peels (Julia’s recommendation) and zesting the two large oranges into the sugar.  Despite the struggles the result was delicious and most wouldn’t notice that there had been any problems in the kitchen.

Once I finished filling the crepes I tossed the sliced mushrooms into the pan and after sufficiently sauteing them, I added chopped green onions and then egg whites (with one whole egg added).  Seasoned with salt and Pepper and scrambled the eggs.  Over all it was a delicious breakfast!  Green onions and mushrooms are one of my favorite veggie combos to scramble with eggs or add to an omelette. Enjoy the pictures.

And, the funny picture of the day: I screwed up one of the crepes pretty badly and it resembled scrambled eggs.  I photographed the anomaly and dubbed it “scrambled crepe”! (My mom added butter and sugar and ate it anyway).

 

Leftovers Creation January 23, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Pasta — flyingbubble @ 4:33 pm
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My mom and I had extra Bechamel sauce from our crepe dinner the other night so we devised a genius plan to consume the leftovers.  I’ve blogged about Shirataki noodles before, they’re a super low calorie pasta replacement which are as good as whatever you serve them with.  We had a bag of them in the fridge along with extra chunked ham and frozen peas/carrots.  My mom cooked dinner so I don’t have eyewitness or first hand details on the process but the basic idea is that we had shirataki noodles with swiss cheese bechamel sauce, ham, peas and carrots.  I believe my mom just toss everything in a saucepan and warmed it up together.  I would imagine the frozen veggies were microwaved before their union with the cheesy sauce.  I came in near the end, tasted the sauce and claimed it needed extra swiss cheese.  An additional cup of shredded swiss cheese was added.  Here are a few tips assuming you decide to try my stuffed crepe dinner recipe, resulting in a cup of leftover bechamel sauce which you think would go well with some pasta:

* Be careful about adding liquids to the sauce, my mom was concerned that it would be too thick.  Our dinner was almost a noodle soup (she added milk).

* Don’t worry about measuring anything its pasta… with sauce… make it your own!

* The sauce is a great base for almost any flavors so don’t feel restricted by anything I say, use whatever vegetables, meats or cheeses you prefer.

*Adding some spices/herbs to compliment your ingredients would be a great idea, we just stuck with salt and pepper though.

As always, here are the editor’s (yes, that’s me) picks from the photo shoot:

 

First Candy Making Attempt January 21, 2010

Filed under: Dessert — flyingbubble @ 11:57 pm
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I bought a Valentine’s Day heart shaped candy mold at IKEA, which has obviously been calling my name.  I’ve never tried molding candy before but I figured I could just make it up rather than finding a recipe.  I bought some quality San Francisco (a.k.a. made in American!) Dark Chocolate, a couple oranges and a bottle of orange extract.  If you need me to spell it out… I decided to make Orange flavored Dark Chocolate.  I really enjoy the Chocolate Orange treats that my mom (er.. I mean Santa) always gave to my brother and I at Christmas.  Its a orange shaped hunk of chocolate that you “whack and unwrap”.  Whacking the ball of chocolate breaks all the “orange slices” apart so it can be enjoyed at whatever pace you like.  Mine rarely lasted more than one day :).  I chopped the block of chocolate into smaller pieces and threw it in a sauce pan, double boiler set up.  I’ve heard from the Food Network that you should melt chocolate with steam from boiling water below so that it doesn’t overheat and burn.  As I was heating the chocolate I zested 2 oranges into the pan and added 3 capfuls of orange extract (in hindsight, 2 capfuls is plenty).  I was expecting a smooth spreadable melted chocolate consistency but my mixture seemed more like pizza dough.  Despite the thickness I stubbornly spooned it into a plastic bag to “pipe” into my mold.  Quickly realizing that the chocolate glob was not about to squish out the small opening of my plastic bag, I just opened the bag and pushed it into the molds with a knife.  Unfortunately I did not end up with a beautifully smooth surface to my chocolates because of this inability to “pour” my chocolate.  Despite the texture, I tossed the mold into the freezer and they’re froze and popped out of the mold just fine.  Not the best chocolates I’ve ever had but the only one’s I’ve ever made myself, so that’s something. Enjoy the photos.

A leftover glob that I broke open to view the orange zest

P.S. Someone special will be receiving these chocolates as a gift… SURPRISE!

 

Cardamom/Thyme Grilled Vegetable Quesadilla

Filed under: Dinner,Snacks,Vegetarian — flyingbubble @ 4:53 pm
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Today, I got off work early because my LT really didn’t have any tasks for me.  Partially because I don’t have a CAC card (meaning my ID does not log me into their computer system), to which Senior Chief told me, “Good Job!” with a wink and a thumbs up.  I actually spent the morning reading a book about investing and playing deal or no deal on my iphone after I made exactly 3 phone calls and had a short conversation with the Master Chief about the book I had just finished reading.  It’s a tough life getting paid to hang out doing nothing all day :).  I arrived home at lunch time and my mom bombarded me with lunch options since she was apparently starving.  She seemed to favor the quesadilla option (since it would use up some fresh vegetables) so I offered to cook for her.  We’ve had fresh thyme sitting the fridge from the Chicken Couscous recipe a few days ago so my mom suggested that I throw that in.  My experience with quesadillas did not involve thyme but like I said before, they’re a great blank canvas for any flavor combination.  On the tv show The Next Food Network Star, I have seen contestants bite into random ingredients that they’ve not cooked with before so they know what flavor they’re dealing with.  That example led me to munch on some fresh thyme leaves, to my dismay… they tastes like leaves.  Yup, I literally felt like I was just eating part of a bush from the backyard.  Online research seemed like the next logical step, from which I discovered that thyme is often overlooked because it does not have a strong “centerstage” flavor profile.  Thyme cannot compete with the distinctive smell/taste of tarragon, basil and sage, however it is the perfect herb to blend into recipes and enhance the other flavors.  With this knowledge, I realized that I needed another flavor for the thyme to enhance.  Rather than researching anymore, I went to the spice cabinet, read through the labels and essentially just picked one at random… cardamom.  Sounds good, smells good, why not?  Clearly I’m on the path to culinary genius.  I sauteed Red onions and green peppers in a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, a dash of cardamom and a handful of fresh thyme leaves.  Then I assembled my mom’s quesadilla with mexican blend cheese, chopped tomatoes, the herbed onion and green peppers and a slice of cheddar cheese (the extra cheese was her request).  I wasn’t hungry enough for the tortilla so I served myself a plate of steaming hot vegetables topped with shredded cheese and a dab (yes that’s a legitimate measurement) of mango salsa.  The food was really good, I don’t know if the flavors were the best compliments for each other but it definitely worked.  If you’re feeling adventurous try it out and let me know what you think.

PS.  When I remembered to take pictures my mom had almost completely polished off the quesadilla so you may see some teeth marks in there.

 

Julia Child Crepes Round 2 January 20, 2010

Filed under: Dinner — flyingbubble @ 1:17 am
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I invited my friend Jessica over for dinner tonight and decided to try my hand at savory crepes this time.  I told her we could have some Orange Bavarian Cream for dessert so it just made sense to make a Julia Child recipe for dinner too.  The descriptions for crepe fillings were quite elaborate and after struggling to decide on the flavors, I opted for the simple, classic ham and cheese combo.  There is a basic bechamel cheese sauce recipe that allows for other ingredients to be added so I picked up some ham and swiss cheese.  The crepe batter was much like the last time (Christmas with Julia) so I just had to throw the ingredients in a blender, mix em up and set in the fridge to settle for a few hours (or in this case overnight).  I also went to the store and bought a cast iron pan to cook with because Julia’s book shows 3 types of acceptable crepe pans that are all “iron” pans.  I’m still not convinced I have the right equipment but this time was certainly easier than cooked with the nonstick skillet.  When Jessica arrived, I had everything ready to go and we just had to start making crepes and whip up the cheesy filling.  Eager to help, Jessica took on the bechamel sauce on the burner next to me as I unsuccessfully stumbled through 3 test crepes (Julia is crazy to think you only need one test!!).  I don’t have much to say about the sauce making process since I was quite engaged in my crepe flipping practice (for me, jerking the pan vigorously does not loosen the crepe…).  Although Jessica thought the beginning butter-flour mixture looked delicious and that adding the whipping cream a tablespoon at a time was tediously unnecessary.  As I cooked the crepes, we had a plate of “test crepe” scraps and a plate of successful full circle fillable crepes.  Jessica went to work filling the crepes once the sauce was done and over all we completed the recipe without destroying the kitchen, breaking the garbage disposal or flinging food on the dog!  The resulting meal was a bit rich for my taste (grew up on low fat healthy food) but definitely really good, next time I’ll put more meat and maybe some vegetables in the sauce.  My mom came in once the cooking was done and took the crepe scraps to make her childhood favorite “roll up pancakes”.  She butters one side, sprinkles it with sugar and rolls it up.  I think this would have been tastier with the “sweet crepes” batter recipe instead of the savory one I used.  A subtle difference but definitely noticeable.  If you’re interested in trying this recipe its a great blank canvas for whatever flavors you prefer!  This was actually on the Worst Cooks in America Food Network show where they challenged the Worst Cook contestants to create their own flavor combinations for the crepe with bechamel filling. Here’s the recipe:

PATE  A  CREPES (crepe batter)

1 cup cold water

1 cup cold milk

4 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups flour

4 Tb melted butter

Put the liquids, eggs and salt into the blender jar.  Add the flour, then the butter.  Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute.  If bits of flour adhere to sides of jar, dislodge with a rubber scraper and blend for 2 to 3 seconds more.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The batter should be a very light cream, just thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.  If, after making your first crepe, it seems too heavy, beat in a bit of water, a spoonful at a time.  Your cooked crepe should be about 1/16 inch thick.

Excerpt about how to cook crepes: “Remove from heat and, holding handle of pan in your right hand, pour with your left hand a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan.  Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to run batter all over the bottom of the pan in a thin film.  (Pour any batter that does not adhere back into your bowl; judge the amount for your next crepe accordingly).  This whole operation takes but 2 to 3 seconds.  Return the pan to heat for 60-80 seconds.  Then jerk and toss pan sharply back and forth and up and down to loosen the crepe.  Lift its edges with a spatula and if the under side is a nice light brown, the crepe is ready for turning.”

SAUCE MORNAY (Bechamel with cheese), 3 cups

5 Tb flour

4 Tb butter

2 3/4 cup boiling milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Big pinch of nutmeg

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese

*Substitute 1/2 cup of the cheese with 1/2 cup cubed ham

Cook the flour and butter slowly together in the sauce pan for 2 minutes without coloring.  Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and seasonings.  Boil, stirring, for 1 minute.  Reduce to the simmer and stir in the cream by tablespoons.  Sauce should be thick enough to coat the spoon fairly heavily.  Remove from heat and correct seasoning.  Stir in all but two tablespoons of the cheese.  (Add cubed ham or whatever other ingredients you desire).  Film top of sauce with milk to prevent a skin from forming.

Place a big spoonful of filling on the lower third of each crepe and roll the crepes into cylinders.