Cooking With G-Dawg

I love to cook. And so after years of  students clamoring for my recipes–offering small bribes for the secret ingredients to my pesto, holding my favorite pair of suspenders hostage until I tell them what exactly is in that cream sauce in my crawfish enchiladas, I have given in. I am going to slowly but surely divulge all of my favorite recipes here. So here I go. The wait is over. I’m going public…

Gracey’s Curry Cream Mussels…With Calypso Music

To me, Lobster is the ultimate “festive food.” Boiling up a couple of our claw-handed, bottom-feeding friends says “Woohoo” like no other meal that I have found. The problem of course is that lobster is expensive. That coupled with the fact that I am poor means that I have to try to find tasty alternatives.
mussels
Mussels are the perfect alternative. Not only are they absolutely delicious, they are fun to eat (a very social food), reasonable, and readily available here in the midwest. There are an infinite number of ways to prepare these little fellas, and I have tried many of them. But the one that I have settled-on as the absolute best way to serve mussels is this curry cream recipe. So go out, get your ingredients, and make some magic.

[A word about buying mussels: As with any fish/seafood, fresh is always best, but frozen mussels are actually quite an excellent substitute. They are also very reasonable, and often more practical than fresh. If you buy mussels fresh, not only will they have to wrap them up and put them on some kind of ice, but they will also need to cut holes in the package so they can breath. Still, you will need to get those puppies home pretty quickly and prepare them. So, it's your choice. Consider your time and resources, and do what is best for you.]

Ingredients:
1/2 cup minced white onion
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 TBSP minced garlic
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 TSP curry powder
32 mussels
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup minced parsley…or basil…or tyme…I have used them all at some point. They are all delicious.
Always listen to calypso music when you steam mussels. They love it, and tend to open more reliably.
(one loaf of your favorite fresh baked bread?) [see below]

Directions:
In a large saucepan (with a lid that seals well), cook the onions and garlic in simmering wine until translucent. Then stir in all of the other ingredients and make sure that it is at a temperature hot enough to create some steam. Now, add the main attraction and place the lid on top.

Open the lid in about 5 minutes, and chances are that many of the mussels will be wiiiiiiide open, yelling “Eat me…Eat me!” If they are not, put the lid back on and steam for another 3 minutes. Once the shells are open, they are ready to devour. Just make sure that you do not eat any of the mussels whose shell did not open. That is a sign that they are possessed by the devil, and if you eat them, you will suffer the same fate. That’s one theory. Another theory is that it simply means that those mussels are spoiled. Either way, don’t eat the closed ones. Normally there will only be about four or five in a large batch like this.

Now, here is a little extra tip. This incredible looking sauce that you steamed our friends in is reeeealllyyy good for dipping your favorite bread into. I’m telling you…this recipe has it all. Enjoy!

Falafel balls image

Gracey’s Fabulous Falafel

When I talk about falafel (and I often do), the first question that people often ask is, “What is falafel?” So let me begin with a brief description. Falafel is a chickpea-based (aka: garbanzo beans), fried fritter-like piece of heaven. Think of a hush puppy…that is actually good for you. Impossible you say? This is exactly why you have to make some falafel…today!

One of the great things about falafel is that it provides you with a chance to incorporate some of your favorite things that you love and enjoy on a regular basis with a treat that you will most often make on special occasions. This recipe is one that I personally love, but other than the chickpeas and garlic, none of the ingredients are sacred to me. Add to them, or remove them as you please. As with many of my recipes, a food processor is essential for this project, so be aware of that. I am also providing…at no extra charge…my tahini dipping sauce recipe. This stuff is so good that you could pretty much dip your shoe in it, and it would be delicious.

Ingredients:
Ingredients for falafel:
2 cans chickpeas
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 small onion
1 TSP ground coriander
1 TBSP ground cumin
½ TSP cayenne
1 cup chopped parsley
1 TSP salt
½ TSP black pepper
½ TSP baking soda
Juice from ½ lemon
A neutral oil for frying (grapeseed or corn?)
(3/4 cup flour…afterwards)

Ingredients for dipping sauce:
1/2 cup tahini (for rookies, tahini is basically a paste made from sesame seeds)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 TSP salt
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 TSP parsley
*Just whip all of this up in a blender and serve at room temperature. It’s that easy!

Directions:
-Drain the beans well and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil. Pulse until minced but not pureed, scraping sides of the bowl down.
*Important note: Add water if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but no more than three or four tablespoons. If you add too much water, the batter will not hold together in the frying process. In regards to this…
**OK, here’s the deal. If you try to form the batter into shapes now to fry it, it will NOT stick together. You see, the small amount of liquid that you needed to make it mix well also makes it too wet to “bind together.” This is easily remedied by simply mixing flour into the batter to thicken it up. I always use wheat flour, but any flour will do. Use about 3/4 cup, and it’s best to just mix it really well with your hands. I know all of this sounds complicated, but it’s really not.
-Put the oil in a large, deep frying pan. You can use a deep fryer if you would like, but if you do, it is more difficult to monitor the batter. I prefer the frying pan. Heat the oil to about 350-365 degrees. This is veeeeeery important. The oil must be hot enough, or the results will not be good.
-Now for the fun part! Form your batter into the shapes of your choice. Balls are easiest, but knock yourself out with rhombuses if you would like. ☺
-Gently place each of these battered miracles into the oil and watch them shimmer. If the oil is hot enough, they will sink down at least half way. When they float to the top, then they are finished (normally about 6-8 minutes). As with anything that you fry, it is always a good idea to drain them briefly before serving, but if the grease is hot enough, they really do not retain much grease. The outside will be crispy, and the inside will be perfectly flaky (like my ex girlfriend…bad joke). Now you have a decision to make. To dip or not to dip…that is the question…
-Most of the time, falafel is served with a side of dipping sauce. It is not required, but does add a nice zest to the dish. The great thing is that you may use whatever you like–Cucumber sauce, tahini sauce (see recipe above), yogurt sauce or just plain old ranch dressing! You just can’t go wrong. Enjoy, and you may email to thank me.

Greek salad image

Albanian Salad

Don’t bother to google “Albanian Salad.” It is a Gracey original. It all began with a problem that I used to have. I love Caesar salad. But I also love Greek salad. So how can a guy enjoy the best elements of both of these culinary delights without ordering both and getting really odd looks from the waitress? This recipe is the answer.

I decided to take my favorite elements from each of these salads and combine them in a fairly seamless manner. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go over, until I made it for a family gathering awhile back. Albania map
They raved about it, and now they make me bring salad to every get-together. Oh and the name…This salad is not Albanian in any way. But if you look at a map, you will notice that Albania is directly between Italy and Greece.
I will let you figure-out the rest. ☺

*This recipe will serve 10 as a side dish.

Ingredients:
Hearts of Romaine lettuce (2 “3 packs”)
2 cans artichoke hearts
1 small jar capers
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 ½ cups pitted kalamato olives (from the olive bar)
1 medium sized onion (I prefer red)
1 cup feta cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ lemon, juiced
2 TSP black pepper
2 TBSP oregano
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup (no more!) of a creamy caesar dressing
1 ½ cups of Caesar dressing…my favorite is Newman’s Own Family Recipe…Mmmmm…
4 little anchovy fillets
12 ounces of croutons

Directions:
Basically just toss all of these ingredients together, but here are a couple of notes…
-First, the anchovies. Don’t leave them out! Yes, I know that is what you were thinking, but get those thoughts right out of your head! They are a key ingredient, and you won’t even know that they are in there if you prepare them correctly. So here’s the dealio…mince the anchovy fillets into tiny pieces and mix them up with the Caesar dressing before pouring it onto the dish. It’s that simple.
-Moving-on to croutons. I normally don’t like to add the croutons until about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Gracey’s Can’t-Go-Wrong-on-a-First-Date BBQ Shrimp

BBQ shrimpI eat shrimp most every week, and over time, I have discovered certain things about my little friends. Most importantly, you must be very careful to not overcook the shrimp. You can spend lots of money on fresh shrimp, but if you incinerate them, then you are wasting your money. One of my favorite ways to prepare shrimp is to simply saute them in a skillet with some olive oil, garlic and pepper. But this BBQ recipe has been a real crowd pleaser, and I promise that you won’t be disappointed. So be attentive, watch them closely and take care of these little devils. If you do, you will be rewarded with a unique culinary treat like no other

Ingredients:
2 lbs. fresh shrimp (raw)
1/2 stick butter
4 TBSP dijon mustard
1/2 bottle of BBQ sauce (your choice)
1 TSP chili powder
1/4 TSP basil
1TSP turmeric
1/4 TSP thyme
2 TSP pepper
4 TBSP chopped onion
1 TBSP crab boil (important)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1TBSP minced garlic
Optional: 1/2 lb. crawfish meat or lump crab meat and 4 tomatillos (see below)

Directions:
Melt the butter in a casserole dish and combine all ingredients. Save the wine until last and then mix thoroughly. Carefully nestle the shrimp into the now gorgeous thick sauce. I always also add 1/2 lb. crawfish meat or lump crab meat, just to have other meat in with the shrimp, but this is not necessary. I also like to cut tomatillos in half and just bake them in (cut portion pointing UP) with the shrimp. They are beautiful and go very well with the shrimp. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes (uncovered!). Then remove from oven, cover immediately and let sit for 30 minutes. The shrimp will continue to cook, and the sauce will thicken. If you don’t have this much time, then just bake the shrimp for 35 minutes.
-Serve with brown rice.

SDT picture

Gracey’s Perfect Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

This pesto is perfect. It’s not that my recipe is better than anyone else’s, but I have added things to mine that I love, sun-dried tomatoes and macadamia nuts. Do the same with your own pesto recipe. This should give you a place to begin.

If you have never made pesto before, you should know that you will need a lot of basil. If you don’t have a lot of basil, then it’s really not worth the trouble. How much is “a lot”? Well, I recently picked 1/3 of a five-gallon bucket of basil (well packed). That is a lot of basil! When all was said and done, that only made about 8 beautiful 8 oz. containers of basil.

What can you use pesto for? Almost anything! It is wonderful to just toss into some hot pasta, along with some olive oil, capers and Parmesan cheese. You may also spread it onto some Italian bread in place of your usual garlic bread. I love to scramble it in eggs also. Grease the axles of your wagon wheels with it. It’s really a duct tape cuisine. It fixes everything!

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh basil (chopped finely and tightly packed)
2 jars (8 oz) Sun-Dried tomatoes (julienne cut, in oil)
1 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 TBSP macadamia nuts
6 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 TSP cayenne pepper
1/2 TSP salt
1 1/3 cups of oil (use all of the delicious oil from the jars of sun-dried tomatoes + however much olive oil that it takes to make 1 1/3 cup)

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients except for the Parmesan cheese and the olive oil. Thoroughly blend in a food processor. If you do not have a food processor, go out and buy one. You must have one! Add Parmesan cheese, and blend as you drizzle-in the olive oil. The consistency will be very much like any other dip that you would make. However, when you refrigerate/freeze it, it will firm up very nicely.

hummus

Gracey’s Golden Grail Spicy Hummus

To some (including me), hummus is a way of life. I can honestly say that I eat it every single day and it just never gets old. It’s best with pita bread, but is also good on flat bread, Triscuits or just plain old saltines. If the hummus is good, you can pretty much smear it on your tennis shoe, and it will be tasty. Hummus comes in all flavors—lemon, garlic, roasted red pepper, etc. This is a spicy hummus. If you don’t like spicy things, then you probably won’t like this. If you do, then you will think that you have died and gone to hummus heaven.

This is the Lord’s hummus. You will not find this recipe anywhere else. For over two years, I have toiled patiently, trying recipe after recipe, ingredient after ingredient—all in search of…well, in search of this. As any hummus connoisseur will tell you, the key ingredient (besides garbanzo beans of course!) is tahini. Do not attempt to make hummus without it. It’s just not right! If you make this exactly as I have written it, you will see what I mean. As with my pesto recipe (below), you reeeaaalllyyy need to have a food processor for this. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 cans garbanzo beans
5 tablespoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil
5 TBSP Tahini
1 TSP salt
1 TBSP curry powder
1 TBSP ground coriander
1 ½ TBSP cumin
5 TBSP Frank’s hot sauce or 3 TBSP tobasco
1 ½ TBSP paprika
3 TBSP chopped jalepeno peppers
2/3 cup water
*Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until very, very smooth. You should of course, drizzle-in the olive oil slowly, and I would recommend waiting until the very end to add the jalepeno peppers.

______________________________________ SeafoodEnchilada

Creamy Crawfish Enchiladas

I have to warn you about this recipe. Once you make it for your friends, they may start speaking in tongues—Mexican tongues! It has become a favorite of mine, especially if I am having a big crew over for dinner. In fact, this recipe is made to serve at least six. After all, why bother with such bold ingredients (crawfish can be pricey) unless you plan to share with others. So, here it is. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter,
1/4 cup all-purpose flour,  
1 cup vegetable broth,  
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream,  
1 cup salsa,  
2 cans enchilada sauce,  
2 small cans black olives,  
1 can Cream of Shrimp soup,  
1/8 teaspoon salt,  
½ onion,  
1 cup (8 ounces) 4% cottage cheese,  
1 ½ pounds crawfish meat,  
3 cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack & Cheddar cheese,  
2 little cans (4 ounces) chopped green chilies,  
15 flour tortillas (7 inches)

Serve with: Rice, additional salsa,  Sour cream, mexican guitar music

Directions:
In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in broth and soup until blended. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir in sour cream, salsa and salt; set aside. Place cottage cheese in a blender; cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl; add the crawfish, olives, salsa, ½ can enchilada sauce, onion, 2 cups of cheese, chilies and cilantro. Pam/grease baking dish and then cover bottom with enchilada sauce. Place about 1/3 cup seafood mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down over sauce. Sprinkle cheese over rolls, top with the remaining sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

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