Friday, November 22, 2013

Modern Day Fisherman’s Soup – Halászlé

Combine ingredients to simmer (I recommend a dutch oven)

We all know that fish (not farm raised)  is healthy.  But there are times when I really don’t feel like eating baked or pan friend fish, even if marinated, breaded or prepared in an interesting way.  Yet, I know, I should make fish because it’s so good for you.  Today was one of those days and in a desperate attempt,  I ended up making one of my favorite ways to consume fish and it wasn’t even that difficult.

My mother always made this dish for Christmas.  Her version was a lot more complicated.  She would buy the live fish (we lived in the city, so there were special stores for this), scale it, etc., etc.  Since I had no pets, I really looked forward to bringing the fish home because I got to play with the fish for a day or a few hours. This modern day version doesn’t involve the extensive preparation.  Yet the authentic flavor is still created.  My mother did add fish eggs to the soup; that is the one missing ingredient.


In a dutch oven (I do believe that cooking in a  dutch oven does result in a better flavor –the more even heating results in better soups, stews and sauces).

32 oz.  non farm raised Cod fillets cut into chunks
2 medium yellow onions-diced
2-3 cloves of garlic-chopped
2 heaping teaspoons of Paprika
1 15 oz can of organic tomato sauce
1 carton  of organic chicken broth
1 tsp. of salt
2-3 saffron threads
freshly ground pepper
2-3 tsp. of soy butter
½ tsp. oregano
¼ ts. Organic garlic powder
½ tsp.-1 tsp Worchester Sauce

1.     Sautee onion until almost translucent (approximately)
2.     Add garlic, stir for a few minutes
3.     Add two heaping tablespoons of authentic Hungarian paprika and stir quickly
4.     Add tomato sauce – stir
5.     Add fish chunks - stir
6.     Add chicken stock - stir
7.     Add approximately 1 cup of water (this is visual…add until it looks right…not too watery not too thick) - stir
8.     Add Worcester sauce, oregano, salt and garlic powder – stir
9.     Add saffron threads

1 Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes (make sure it’s a gentle simmer so that the fish doesn’t get ripped apart-also always stir gently)
Let stand for 5 minutes or so

Serve with crusty French bread (can garnish with parsley).

This Fisherman’s Soup was part of the traditional dinner during Christmas Eve.  During the past ten years I was able to find this soup in a Hungarian restaurant called Paprikas (initially in Chicago, then in Arlington Heights).   This restaurant closed several years ago and it took about five years for me to attempt to cook it. The dutch oven is a great substitute for the traditional bogracs  (kettle used to cook over the fire) that the fisherman used as they made this soup on the shores of the Danube.   There are variations of this soup; some add green peppers or other vegetables.  I prefer this version due to  the balance between the tasty broth and fish.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Highlights of Three Months

Delicious Duck L'Orange from the French Restaurant in Epcot-
tasty and safe

I haven’t added a blog entry for three months.  Why?  Yes, I’m very busy but I’ve always been busy, so that’s not the right answer.  Did I cut back on cooking and creating new dishes?  No, because I just reviewed my iOS album on facebook and I have all kinds of food photos uploaded.  Do I tend to not blog as much during the summer?  I thought that was it.  But after scanning through the dates in my blog, it seems to be a cyclical phase.  Blog for a while, stop, then blog for a while, stop and so on.  I wish I could blog during my commutes, but Siri is not that advanced. But even if Siri was advanced, I would most likely only use it to keep a track of ‘to blog’ items.  Words and ideas flow better when we write. 

So it’s time to resume the updates.  A good way to start it up again is to think through the food type experiences of the summer. The three main food experiences of this summer are:

Disneyworld  – outstanding experience
Ahi Tuna Burger - NOT cross contaminated with shellfish
Scotch Eggs at the English Restaurant in Epcot - not fried with shellfish

Delicious appetizer in the French Restaurant in Epcot

In Morocco - NOT contaminated with nuts

We avoided allergens for my son in EVERY restaurant in the park.  While we are down to shellfish, nuts, and peanuts, Disney is known in the food allergy community for being able to readily and accurately cater to special diets (including multiple food allergies).   When the French chef (not Julia Child, while Disney is fantasy, resurrecting people is not one of the themes) comes out and tells you exactly why a certain food is safe for your child to eat, your evening becomes perfection.  Disney kitchens were extremely cognizant of cross contamination.  The best part was dining in the various countries in Epcot. Certain foods are typically cross contaminated with shellfish, but the fish and chips in England was not.   Yes, I gave the allergy ‘speech’ before every meal, but it was understood well and we had so many choices.

Grilling – the backyard and 4th of July

Traditional beer brats

Marinated chicken kebobs

Skewer I first saw on barbecue U -
 flat items don't turn
Grilling/barbecuing is not my forte.  Yes, I can do it and excel at it, but I prefer the oven and stovetop.   So while my son had the interest, he did grill and with a lot of care and perfection. 

One of my personal favorites was Portabella burger.  These were marinated and grilled and they were delicious (grilled by my son).

A key trick to grilling is indirect grilling.  But boneless meats and vegetables can be directly grilled. And of course charcoal, not gas.  While gas is more convenient, I still prefer the flavor.

Pan Frying and Dutch Oven Cooking

It’s always hard to cook after a long workday.  After a long workday and a long commute, it would be nice to just relax (especially in the summer). Dutch Oven cooking the night before, and pan-frying enable some relatively simpler (with respect to time) dishes.

Crockpots are popular, but I prefer the flavor and
consistency of dishes from the dutch oven (cassoulet)

New food processor

Never Fail hummus

organic spinach garlic pasta 
(note how each shell contains a garlic piece)

One of the easiest dishes I make - rack of lamb with roasted potatoes
(including purple)- has to be served on a pewter plate

Dining Out

Sushi in Cincinnati at Aroma - they really
 understood shellfish cross contamination

Yes, eating out real food is possible even in a restaurant (and outside of Disney World).  I plan on adding some information on this.

I also bought Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” – this is a great read for any foodie.

One of my favorite quotes from the book (there are many and I’m still reading it):

Koreans traditionally make a distinction between the “tongue taste” and the “hand taste” of a food. (…)Tongue taste is the straightforward chemical phenomenon that takes place whenever molecules make contact with taste buds, something that happens with any food as a matter of course. Tongue taste is the kind of easy, accessible flavor that any food scientist or manufacturer can reliably produce in order to make food appealing. “McDonald’s has tongue taste,” (…)Hand taste, however, involves something greater than mere flavor. It is the infinitely more complex experience of a food that bears the  unmistakable signature of the individual who made it — the care and the thought and idiosyncrasy that that person has put into the work of preparing it. Hand taste cannot be faked, (…) and hand taste is the reason we go to all this trouble, massaging the individual leaves of each cabbage and then folding them and packing them in the urn just so. What hand taste is, I understood all at once, is the taste of love.
Michael Pollan, Cooked

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tofu is NOT gross

As people brag on facebook about all the bacon they eat, any post about a dish that contains tofu gets joking comments like “oh that’s not real food,” or  “I’ll keep my bacon, thank you.”  As my dad used to say, every joke has a basis. People for some reason are repulsed with food that doesn't lead to heart disease and other health issues. And no, you don't need to be a vegan to add this great food to your dishes.  My son, a major meat eater, loves it.

Carnivores hate the sound of this word:  tofu.  They imagine it as this gross squishy white thing.  No it is not, the horrid image is due to bad preparation (or lack of preparation).   A long time ago, someone told me they hated calamari, to which I responded, “you must have had badly prepared calamari.”  After this individual tried properly prepared calamari they became a convert and started eating calamari.

While I wrote this blog entry, there must be at least 10 posts up already about the greatness of bacon.  Greatness that keeps doctors their multiple luxury cars, mansion, boats and planes. Greatness that drives my health insurance premium up.  I'm not proposing that people stop eating bacon (I'm lucky, I don't really like it), but in order to stop the horrible health epidemic, people need to start to look at their diets and reevaluate the quantities of unhealthy foods they ingest.  And if not for themselves, at least expose their kids to some better alternatives.

Here are some key preparation tips:

Purchase the right tofu:
            For people who don’t have time to drain and press, I find that Wildwood Super Firm Tofu (pictured in my Holiday Guide) Part I blog entry:

 is  the easiest to deal with and it also has more protein.  I don’t need to press, squeeze, etc.  I’ve only found this at Whole Foods and Woodman’s around here.  It saves a lot of the playing around.  Other super firm tofu works too, but you have to drain and press (I haven’t tried any of the tofu presses on Amazon yet).

If you buy another tofu, makes sure it is ORGANIC (fermented, sprouted)-do not buy GMO (defeats the whole purpose of eating it for health).  As a side note, I only buy organic soy sauce as well.

Marinate – tofu takes on any flavor and marinating, seasoning makes a huge difference. If you don’t have time to marinate, season it.

Pan fry in a healthy oil – this makes a huge difference.  It goes fairly quick and gives the outside a nice crunch.  Sometimes I sprinkle some flour on top as I’m frying it.

Throw into any dish instead of meat and you will get a healthier version of your dinner.

Well prepared tofu is similar to paneer in Indian cuisine.

UPDATE:  3/4/14-instead of pan frying, I've been finding myself bake tofu more.  There are many ways to bake it.  First I marinate it (30 minutes), then I place it in a 400 degree oven for about thirty minutes.  I use the no stick foil to prevent sticking....while it's not as crispy as pan frying, it's still fairly crisp and firm.

If this sounds like too much work, make it ahead and freeze it. I usually make the entire block, and freeze it and throw into dishes as needed.

Tofu is high in calcium and protein.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Distress Scramble

After sautéing add the eggs very slows and stir gently on medium heat,
 make sure the creamy consistency is retained

Sautee vegetables

It was one of those days.  Long work day, long commute, and various taxes due (increased ones).  Eating was not a high priority.  At 8 PM I had a choice of:

  1. Carry out
  2. Dine out
  3. Not eat (was most tempted to do this)
  4. Try to find something healthy eat home and prepare it (but not in the mood)

Options 1 and 2 were not appealing because I knew most quick outside solutions would be unhealthy, high in sodium and fat.  Sure I occasionally indulge in such items, but one can do this only so many times and get away with it. 
I really was tempted to skip a meal since I wasn’t even hungry.

I finally settled on option 4.  I had some organic eggs, baby portabella mushrooms and some other vegetables.  This is a very flexible dish.  You can use what you have, I wish I had spinach, but didn’t.  Also, , tomato is a common ingredient for this dish, but I didn’t have any.

Simple Recipe:

Gently beat 10 organic eggs and add a little paprika
Chop a small or half of a large onion
Chop 1-2 garlic
Boil some potatoes (but don’t overboil) and chop
Wash and slice mushrooms
Chop parsley (1tsp)
Optional -Various spices that you like (e.g., cumin, turmeric…but in very small quantity)

And other vegetables as desired.

Pan fry vegetables in olive oil (not extra virgin as it has a lower smoking point).
Typically add the onions first, then mushrooms and towards the end potatoes and the chopped garlic.

When onions are translucent and vegetables look ready, slowly pour eggs in medium batches and stir.  Keep gently stirring until done.
This was tasty and there is nothing to feel bad about (not with the dish at least).

This is not a frittata, but it has a very creamy consistency.

The only problem, I don't want to waste the great flavor on doing taxes.

Note:  Organic eggs do have much better nutritional content than their non organic version (the chicken’s diet impacts the nutrients in the eggs).

Copyright:  BlogToTheNextOne

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Imhotep Resurrection

Home made chicken jambalaya (organic non hormoned/antibioticed chicken)

It's possible to eat out real food that's even fun

I haven’t blogged for a while.  Talking to other bloggers, this is apparently a common phase a blogger goes through.  Blog, stop and realize that it’s time to blog again since there is so much to blog about and then stagnate on that thought for a while.  We all know if we don’t
keep the blog fresh and new it will die for sure.  If it’s already dead, we need to resurrect.  So I’m entering the resurrection phase.

First, why the loss in continuity?  Time as usual is never enough and unlike the Rolling Stones claim, it’s not on my side (but it’s definitely on their side).  I have more than full time life/career and in my spare time, I am also running a hobby site (totally unrelated to this blog) that now too needs resurrecting also. Plus I have many other interests and responsibilities.

So as part of the resurrection process, it’s time to self analyze.  Why did I start this blog in the first place, and was I true to its original mission? 
There are multiple reasons why I started this blog.  Mostly, I refused to accept that garbage processed food is the natural outcome of a busy life style.  Friends would ask me for recipes – oh how did you make this without some key unhealthy ingredient?
It is well known that I personally avoid dairy like the plague.  This passionate hatred for dairy was initially the outcome of my son’s G.I. issues; an up and coming form of food allergy called Eosinophilic Esophagitis – a strange allergy of the esophagus that can only be diagnosed via an endoscopy / biopsy.  A condition you don’t ‘grow out of.’  So after his diagnosis, we tried the elimination diet (off the top 8 allergens) and it worked.  His condition cleared up.  The next 7 years were spent trying to figure out which of those 8, if not all, are causing this reaction (food trialà endoscopyàconclusion).   Over the years he gained back soy, wheat, eggs, fish and now the biggest one of them, with respect to his lifestyle, DAIRY, the most common trigger for EoE (the odds were against us).

So, back to this blog. since it’s not a food allergy blog. Over the past 8 years, I learned a lot about processed foods, ingredients, and how to make food taste good without bad ingredients.  Eating this way I stopped getting sinus infections, etc. I wanted to share this knowledge.  Cooking and living this way led to the Hegelian dialectic and hence paradigm shift.  So I started blogging about how to shop, cook and live with real food ingredients while avoiding some culprits that have been shown to be carcinogens and causes of diabetes.  I started posting recipes and shopping tricks. Then I had no time.  Taking photos and uploading them was easy.  It’s the recipes that slowed down the process.  I don’t really follow recipes.  I create dishes on the fly.  For a new dish I always read multiple recipes that formed the foundation.  Then I create my own recipe in my head as I apply some foundations that too are in my head. 
 Plus the whole purpose of the blog wasn’t to be a pure recipe blog.  There are plenty of great recipe blogs out there.

So as with any resurrection, remember Imhotep, it’s time to get back to the basics.  The rest follows (“Imhotep, Imhotep” – famous follows quote from The Mummy).

So to apply the Imhotep resurrection model, the first entry is to remind (including myself) why I blog.  With that step completed, I’ve set a goal for myself on the frequency  of new blog entries, even if not a full blown recipe, something valuable the reaffirms.  So for now, this entry is just a reminder that one can live a busy life without ingesting garbage.  One doesn’t need a food allergy or EoE to do this. 

While unwinding from a long workday, I found  this new source, it too is a reminder.  “We have to cook our way out of this mess” – blogs and events like this are reminders not stray off the path.  It’s the anti unhealthy campaign that we are exposed to daily (fast food and processed foods):

Due to my son being able to eat dairy, we can now eat out more (no dread of dairy cross contamination-if the spatula touched cheese, nobody will get sick).  But dining out is a science too.  Some restaurants have better dishes than some others. I’ve found a few that are ‘less evil’ than some others. Serving real food is of course the first criteria to even visiting it.

Healthy food is NOT boring.  It’s the lack of know how and some social conditioning that leads to people thinking that it is.

Yes-no meat and it's tasty

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