Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Hummus…the ketchup of tomorrow

In Recipies on January 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm


There "might" be enough hummus there. Ya think?

Hummus (or “hommus”) is a rising star.  Salsa overtook ketchup and hummus looks to be closing in on salsa as an American condiment.  The homemade version is so inexpensive to make that the convenience of the pre-packaged stuff gets minimized when you make your own.  The stuff is hardly a diet food, the tahini (tahina) runs about 100cal/TBS.



Hummus is a food of Antiquity.  Long before there were food processors, a mortar and pestle was used to grind the stuff into a paste.


Enough of the History Channel stuff.


Here is a very basic hummus recipe that lends itself to experimentation.  Traditional hummus uses dried chickpeas (and sometimes fava beans) that are reconstituted by cooking.  This recipe uses canned chickpeas, since the goal is speed over purism here.


1 14oz can of chickpeas (garbanzos) – RESERVE the liquid

juice of 1-2 lemons (about 1/3 to ½ cup) depending on taste

¼ to ½ C tahini (tahina) (I like a LOT in my hummus)

2-3 cloves of garlic

1-2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt


Drain the chickpeas, reserving at least ½ cup of it.  You may add water to the liquid to bring it to volume if needed.  Pick the lemon seeds out of the juice, but leave the pulp.  Toss all of the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.


Variation One:  For a creamier, dairy version, use ¼ C tahini and ¼ cup sour cream.


Variation Two:  Add ½ tsp hot (sharp) paprika, ¼ tsp turmeric, and ¼ tsp cayenne.


Variation Three:  Add 1-2 jalapeno peppers (seeded) minced, to Version Two (omit cayenne).


Experiment with small amounts in a saucer and add whatever spices or herbs you like.


Spread on a plate or platter.  Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of paprika and 1 tsp finely chopped parsley.


Serve with just about any crisp chip, cracker, or pita portions.




“Fast” and easy pita!


This recipe will make 8-12 pita loaves.  I make them and freeze them for later use.  After I made these while my friends visited with their children, there were many subsequent requests from them for “that ‘sploding bread”.  The recipe makes for a very dense and chewy pita.  I have another that is less dense that is fried.  But this is the one I like best.


2 C white flour

1 C whole wheat flour

1-2 tsp salt

3 tsp dry yeast

pinch of sugar

1 1/3 to 1 ½ C warm water


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the pinch of sugar.  I have had variable “luck” getting my pita to puff up nicely until I started “priming” the yeast with a bit of sugar.  Purists can add a bit of flour instead of the sugar.  Allow the yeast/water to stand 5-10 minutes.  Dump the flours into a mixing bowl with the salt and stir thoroughly.  The point here, is to mix in the salt so it does not remain concentrated in one spot and kill off your yeast when you add it.  Add in the yeast mixture and knead for about 10 minutes.  A stand mixer with a dough hook is nice.  But if you want arms like Popeye, knead the stuff by hand.  The dough should be smooth, but quite stiff.  Lightly oil a large bowl.  Form the dough into a large ball, dump in the dough, cover with a damp towel, and place in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours (until it doubles in size).  Some folks form the dough into balls (golf ball to Clementine-size) and cover it with waxed paper or plastic film and allow it to rise again.  I really like chewy pita, so I omit the second rise.


Pre-heat oven to AT LEAST 450F.  I use a pizza stone when I bake pita.  If you use a pizza stone, pre-heat it in the oven as well.  Form dough balls (golf ball to Clementine-size) using well floured hands.  Be sure to make the surface of the balls as smooth as possible.  Roll out each ball to about ¼” thickness.  Toss onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet.  Close the oven door and be amazed…well, if you have a window in the door. These babies blow up like puffer fish.  When dark brown spots form on the surface, the pita is “done”.  Cool on a wire rack.


Any number of these hot, fresh pitot fall casualty to me every time I bake them.  TRY to save some for later.


Mess with the rooster, you get the beak

In Recipies on January 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm


I've looked all day and cannot find the beak



Looking for a vegetarian snack that can become a lunch?  Try making Pico de Gallo (Beak of the rooster!) and serve it with corn chips or tortilla chips.  It is even great for breakfast when it is stirred into a bowl of ordinary rice.  I saw some pre-made in the grocery store selling for about $4 per pint!



2 large tomatoes, seeded and then diced small

1 medium to large sweet onion, diced small

1-2 tsp lime (or lemon) juice

1 C (packed) cilantro leaves

1-3 jalapeno peppers (seeded for less heat), fine mince

salt to taste


Here’s the tough part…mix all of the above and serve immediately.  This is a condiment best served at its freshest.  When it sits for more than a short time, it turns into a soggy mess.  Thankfully, it is so easy to make that making it ahead is not necessary.  But, do not despair if last night’s Pico got runny overnight.  Toss it into a blender or food processor, add some cumin, thyme, and salt and make it into a simple salsa.

You can get gas that costs less than $3/gallon

In Recipies on January 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm


Up close, and personal, with the star



A recent email to the Phyne Dyner begged for some ” ‘Merican food”.


Fair enough.


Red beans and rice frequently hits the Phyne Dyner’s table.  It is a true “peasant food” and the Phyne Dyner is quick (and proud) to count himself among the peasants.


With corn reaching $6/bushel and gasoline reaching over $3/gallon, this rice and bean recipe may be in high demand in a few months!


There are many versions of this humble recipe.  From the “whistle berries” of the American southwest, to spin-offs like “Hoppin’ John” in the South, beans and rice keeps America running strong.


Sure, it is not a health food, but it is not too shabby.


A quick poke around the food sites will give readers an idea about how many variations there are to rice and beans.  Most call for meat, typically pork.


I have made variations using beef kielbasa and turkey “ham” with excellent results.  Today’s offering will be strictly bare bones without meat.


And a brief word about the “toot” in beans:


The well documented “toot” after eating beans comes from a couple of sources.  Most of the gas comes from fermentation of oligosaccharides (big sugars) that are too large to slip though the lining of the small intestine.  They bump on down to the colon, where bacteria chomp on them or they ferment.  The result is a pretty good amount of carbon dioxide.  Enzymes higher up break disulfide bonds in bean’s protein and generate small, but noticeable, hydrogen sulfide…”rotten egg gas”.


And now you know.


This should go without saying, but it is important to sort and rinse all beans before you cook them.  Any number of stones, twigs, and earth can be found in packages of beans.  Sorting and rinsing them carefully will protect expensive dental work!


Time to get cooking!


1 C pinto beans, sorted and rinsed or 1 14oz can red beans, chili beans, or

2 C long-grain rice uncooked

1 TBS olive oil

4 C vegetable broth or stock

2 medium tomatoes, diced or (1 14oz can)

2 tsp epazote

4 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

½ C green (bell) pepper, small dice

½ C red, sweet pepper, small dice

½ tsp liquid smoke (optional)

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme leaves

2 jalapeno peppers, minced (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


Carefully sort and rinse beans (at least twice).  Place in a large pot and add water sufficient to cover them by about an inch or two.  Place in a cool location overnight.


Dump the beans in to a colander and rinse them again.  Rinse out the soaking pot and return the beans to it.  Add three cups of water and simmer for 2-3 hours or until beans are just becoming tender.


Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add uncooked rice, garlic, and spices (except bay leaves).  Gently sauté for about three minutes or until rice is fragrant and just beginning to turn pale golden.  Add onion and continue to sauté for an additional two minutes.  Add broth or stock, bay leaves, tomatoes, celery, liquid smoke, and peppers.  Reduce heat to low, stir in beans, and cover tightly.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve with corn bread or muffins, French bread, or pita.


Serves: A “bunch” of people (about 4)


New Terms of Service

In General Information, Recipies on January 5, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Veteran commentator, Rekha Basu, at the Des Moines Register no longer subjects herself to drive-by commentary by “Blowtorch” et al.  She requires people to stand behind their comments with their names.  This is a very good thing.

The Phyne Dyner publishes under his own name.  It is high time others are held to the same level of accountability.  It is only “fair”.  So, if you wish to hold forth on a dyning topic, include your name, address, and telephone contact information.  Until this information can be vetted, your comments will be held in que.

Fifteen minutes of fame

In Lifestyle on January 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Has the "foodie" fallen on his own knife?

The Phyne Dyner hopes the current fascination with good food does not go the way of the CB-radio fad of the 1970s.  An article published in the Des Moines Register seems to be the harbinger of death for all things “food”.  In fact there is a growing amount of back pressure against foodies.

Exhibit One: The Des Moines Register’s coverage of a hopeful “worst cook”…

If that is not bad enough, here is a teaser for what is leading the push to banish foodies:

“A few weeks after Jessie Oloroso’s Black Dog Gelato opened on Damen Avenue last summer, lines were still out the door. A woman reached the front and asked the ice cream scooper if Black Dog uses corn syrup in its gelato. The server said yes, but only for texture, and it wasn’t high-fructose — but before the server could finish, the woman turned around and announced to the people standing behind her: “They don’t even use real sugar in here!” Then she stormed out.

“Do I use real sugar?” Oloroso said later. “I do. I also use granulated sugar. I use a lot of things. And I know the difference, but do some of these people? I doubt it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing when people begin asking food producers to claim some accountability in their food. But this is going a little far.”

Exhibit Two: The Chicago Tribune’s call for calm among foodies…,0,3814934,full.story

And now, a new word has been coined to express disdain for overwrought, pretentious foodies:  “foochebag”.

Both links are great reads.

And…thanks for reading the Phyne Dyner!

Oven-based packet poached fish

In Recipies on January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am


"Oh deer" He said, "poached"



Packet poaching is an easy way to poach fish with a minimum of effort; especially with the cleanup, since the cooking vessel can be rinsed and tossed into the recycling bin.


Poaching takes place between 140-180 degrees (F).  “Mr. Science” would know this is not the same as “boiling”.  Bubbles may form at the bottom of the cooking vessel, but should not rise to the surface.  An instant-read thermometer will help you get the poaching liquid (in traditional poaching) to the right temperature.


Oven-based packet poaching works best with thin cuts of fish.  Flounder and tilapia fit the bill perfectly.


Thicker cuts, like cod loins, salmon fillets or steaks, are better prepared in a poaching pan because, by the time the inner part of a thicker cut is fully cooked, the outer portion will probably be much hotter than the ideal poaching temperature.  If the cook wishes to keep the poached item from having a greasy taste or texture, it is necessary to keep the oils floating on top of the poaching liquid.  Besides, once the temperature exceeds the boiling point, we are “steaming”.


Because of the above-captioned science, poaching is a very healthy method of cooking.


And, now, the cooking…


Packet Poached Tilapia


4-8 tilapia fillets, rinsed

juice of one lemon, strained

1-2 TBS good quality olive oil

heavy duty foil squares, large enough to wrap the fish portions loosely

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place a fish fillet in the center of a foil square.  Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together.  Now, quickly, spoon (1-2 tsp) of the oil/lemon juice mixture over the fish before the oil and juice separates. Salt and pepper to taste.  Loosely wrap each fish portion in the foil.  Place the packets on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 4-8 minutes.  If you hear boiling or sizzling from the packets, remove them for a moment.  Remember, we do not want to steam (or bake) the fish. The oil becomes “part” of the steaming vessel and it adds no oily taste provided the fish is removed pronto, before it begins to cool.  It will take a bit of experimentation (But that is the fun of Phyne Dyning!) to determine your cooking time.  The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.


But wait!  There’s more!


Tilapia and flounder are both very mild fish.  They lend themselves to being enhanced with delicate flavors.


Faye Levy, author of Feast from the Mideast, offered a foil-baked trout recipe that lends itself well to packet poaching.


Add ½ tsp of curry powder, 4 large cloves of garlic (minced), and a pinch of cayenne to the olive oil and lemon juice.  Top with jalapeno slices, minced onion, and diced cherry tomatoes.  Wrap and place in the oven as with the basic recipe.  Serve over basmati rice.  When her version is poached, instead of baked, the onion/pepper/tomato lends a nice texture challenge to the soft flesh of the fish.


Here is a Thai-inspired version:


Substitute lime juice for lemon juice and add ¼ tsp galangal.  Drizzle over fish as in the basic recipe.  Before wrapping the fish, place ½ of a basil leaf on top of each fish portion.  Wrap and prepare as in the basic recipe.


And a very basic Scandinavian twist:


Prepare the basic recipe.  Sprinkle with dried dill.  Salt and pepper.  Wrap and cook.


Play around with your own versions.  Invent a Caribbean version!  Go for it in a lowbrow fashion by seasoning the poaching liquid with a few drops of packet sauce left over from your least jaunt to Popeye’s.  Phyne Dyners who have adventure flowing in their blood can even take this recipe camping (remember to pack out the foil!).


Phyne Dyning is dynamic.  It moves.  Take a familiar or simple recipe and take it in your own direction.

The Ugly: Waste not, want not

In Lifestyle on January 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

Newspapermen publish their mistakes and doctors bury theirs.

Low brow takes a bow in the Jewish Press

The January/February issue of The Greater Des Moines Jewish Press published a whopper of a mistake; in addition to its indulgence of an amateur “foodie” who may know his food, but knows nothing about professional food service.

The Phyne Dyner will not publish the “recipe” here, in hopes it will quietly fade away.

As a Jew of the Reform tradition, I fully embrace the ideal of “repairing/perfecting the world” (tikkun olam) as partners with G-d.

Which is precisely why the Phyne Dyner passes on “Dishwasher Poached Fish” .

It would be easy to lampoon the “recipe” on the basis it “couldn’t be easier”.  Earl and Randy Hickey (My Name is Earl characters) walking on down to the blacktop with a fork to scarf up roadkill would be similarly easy.

The better argument against even trying “Dishwasher Poached Fish” is its horrific waste of natural resources.

Essentially, the recipe consists of wrapping seasoned fish portions in aluminum foil, placing them on the top rack of the dishwasher, and running it through a full cycle…sans detergent (DUH!).

A dishwasher used in this manner uses approximately 4-6 gallons of water and expends 1-2kW of energy.

The Jewish Press may wish to check with our Israeli brothers and sisters about the precious nature of water and energy and consider how many young people may have convinced their indulgent parents into trying this ecological faux pas.

The Phyne Dyner admonishes all comers…”If you want to make foil-packet poached fish, do it in a 400-degree oven for 6-18 minutes.

Another exercise in poor judgment from the Jewish Press.

The Good: Pommes de Terre Burgundie

In Recipies on January 3, 2011 at 10:44 am


Try these savory potatoes with steak or prime rib!



The Phyne Dyner is entirely unsure about the origins of this side dish.  He used to frequent any number of suburban Detroit “supper clubs” (remember those?) in the mid to late 1970s.  In those days, the Phyne Dyner plied his appetites from Harbor Springs to Grosse Pointe.


In those days, the potato was king of sides with prime beef, steak, or Beef Wellington.


As an homage to the Hilltop Inn located in Plymouth, Michigan where the Phyne Dyner enjoyed any number of excellent meals, he offers this copycat potato recipe from his too long-ago younger days.


4-5 medium russet or red-jacket potatoes, unpeeled and sliced ½-inch thick

3 TBS vegetable oil (canola)

¾ C barely passable Burgundy wine

1 TBS ground coriander

1 TBS minced chives

salt and pepper to taste


In a large, heavy skillet (with a cover that fits), heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes (in batches if needed).  Fry for 3-6 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Add the wine, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 10-18 minutes or until the wine is nearly fully absorbed or cooked down.  Sprinkle the ground coriander over the potatoes and re-cover for about five more minutes.  Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with minced chives.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.


Serves four