Geek Chef

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Container Gardens September 24, 2009

Filed under: Craft,Food — geekchef @ 1:40 pm
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There is nothing like the taste of home grown food and it’s something that most apartment dwellers think they can not experience. True they will never be able to live off of what they grow; but it is very possible to maintain a small garden on balconies, patios, hell even fire escapes.

I bought some of those Topsy Turvy Tomato dealies in the spring and I have harvested quite a few cherry tomatoes recently. My apartment only gets partial sun, so many of the summer veggies only fared so-so but I think I did ok. I am now preparing for the winter and last night built a self watering container which I am very proud of, no pictures yet – it was very dark by the time I was finished.

The idea of self watering is great. Not only do you save water, but you also save yourself some of the hassle of watering. One of the problems I have faced in apartment gardening is a lack of a water source, so I would have to fill up a bucket in the tub and lug it thru the house (usually dripping) and water the plants from the bucket. And without a container that holds drainage water to use later, I was making trips every other day. Now, I can cut that down to weekly!

So here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:

  • Choose large or medium sized pots, depending on your space. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly.
  • Make sure you have good drainage! If you have found the perfect pot for your garden, but it doesn’t have holes – you better come up with another drainage solution or you are going to have dead plants.
  • Grow plants based on your sun exposure.  Fruits and tomatoes need full sun for most of the day, while leafy greens can live in a good amount of shade, root veggies are somewhere in the middle – ask a garden center expert if you have questions.
  • Start with something that grows quickly, like lettuce,  mustard cress,  beets and herbs, next to something that takes longer. The quick turnaround will give you a preview of wonderful things to come.

I hope this helps. Good luck to all that give it a try, please tell me how it turns out!

Cherry and Arugula Salad

Large handful arugula
Large handful cherry tomatoes
One clove of garlic, sliced
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of curry powder

Lightly saute the sliced garlic until soft, then add arugula and tomatoes and cook for until the leaves start to wilt. Remove from heat and let cool.
Drizzle lime juice, sprinkle curry powder and mint and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!


I just found this window curtain planter irrigation dealie that is so cool, here is a diagram and a link, check it out!!!


Thai Beef Salad (Yam Neua) May 13, 2008

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 9:12 pm
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This is dedicated to the lovely ladies sitting next to me during the cooking class tonight. Ladies, there is also a posting for wine pairing specific to Thai food, if you are interested. ENJOY!

1-lb decent quality steak, sirloin or other
10 (or more) fresh hot Thai chili peppers, slice crosswise very thin (or substitute jalapenos or serrano chilies, minced)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1″ inch ginger, grated or minced
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tblsp ground rice powder (optional) you can throw dry sweet rice in a food processor to make powder.
12 sprigs fresh mint
1 small cucumber, sliced thin
2 to 3 shallots, sliced crosswise very thin or 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, stems removed
1 heart of Romaine lettuce
Mix garlic, ginger, chiles, vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl. Taste and add more fish sauce, lime or sugar if desired. Use half of the dressing as a marinade for the beef . You can leave it overnight or as little as an hour.

Drain the marinade and sprinkle rice powder on meat before grilling. Grill or broil the steak until medium-rare. Trim off any fat. Cool and slice thin, into pieces approx. 2 inches across and 1/8 inch thick.

Add the meat, cucumbers and shallots and toss with remaining dressing.

Make a bed of the lettuce on a serving plate. Place the beef on top. Garnish with cilantro and mint. Serves 2 to 3 as an appetizer or as part of a meal.


Organic Delivery August 21, 2007

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:52 pm
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I signed up for organic produce delivered to my door every other week. I know that I am blocks away from a very decent farmers market, but I don’t want to carry bags of produce on the train with me every week. Plus I’m hoping this might give me opportunities to try things I might not use in my cooking otherwise.

This is what will be delivered:
Crimini Mushrooms
Dino Kale
Garlic Colossal
Green Beans
Green Bell Pepper
Green Onions
Kadota Fig
Mixed Medley Cherry Tomatoes
Red Beets
Romaine Hearts
White Nectarines

Here is A few ideas of how to use my new ingredients:

Tuscan Sausage-Kale Soup

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1½ tsp crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces
2 tsp garlic puree
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
1 bunch of kale

Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients. In the same pan, sautee bacon, onions and garlic for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour. Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in the sausage, add kale just before serving.
Smothered Mushrooms and Kale

Smothered Mushrooms and Kale

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
24 small crimini mushrooms, wiped clean, halved
1 bunch kale, trimmed, stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup Marsala or other sherry
Salt and pepper

Heat a medium skillet with extra-virgin olive oil and butter over medium to medium-high heat. When fat is hot, add garlic and mushrooms and place a lid which is too small for the skillet down into the pan, pressing and smothering the mushrooms. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring once, then wilt the kale into the pan, turning it with tongs to combine with mushrooms. Smother the greens for 1 to 2 minutes, then deglaze the pan with Marsala and season the mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Wild Mushroom Frittata

Wild Mushroom Frittata

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, a couple of handfuls, stems removed, chopped
1 cup oyster mushrooms, a couple of handfuls, chopped
1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and pepper
12 eggs, beaten
Dash of half-and-half
1 lemon, zested
2 scallions, sliced
2 teaspoons hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 cup Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet, with oven safe handle over medium to medium-high heat. Wrapping a rubber handle in foil will allow the pan to transfer to oven as well.

To hot pan, add oil and mushrooms. Season mushrooms with thyme, salt and pepper. Cook 3 to 5 minutes until all of the veggies are tender. Beat eggs with salt and pepper, dash of half-and-half, lemon zest, scallions and hot sauce. Pour over the mushrooms. Lift and settle eggs in the pan as they brown on the bottom. When the eggs are set but remain uncooked on top, transfer to oven for 7 or 8 minutes, until frittata is golden brown and puffy. Sprinkle the frittata with cheese and return to the oven for 1 or 2 minutes.

Pickled Beet Salad

2 pounds beets, trimmed and washed
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pickled gherkins, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish root (or 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beets, loosely covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain the beets, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off.

Slice the beets into strips and place in a 1-quart jar, along with the onion and garlic. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, cardamom seeds, cloves, salt, and the reserved cooking liquid. Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar, while stirring. Pour warm vinegar liquid over the beets, onion and garlic in the jar. Let cool to room temperature, then cover, and refrigerate overnight.

In a large bowl, combine the pickled beets, gherkins, and apple. In a small bowl, blend together the horseradish, sour cream, salt, and sugar, and add to the pickled beet mixture. Stir gently, cover and refrigerate. Serve salad chilled.


What pairs well with Tom Yum Gai? August 10, 2007

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 10:19 am
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I pulled this from sfgate, sorry for the phoned in posting but I find this to be very useful.

I’ll list my recipe for Tom Yum soon, it’s my sick soup and I don’t want to jinx myself and talk about it whilst healthy 🙂

Grilled meats

Thailand’s culinary culture is happily enjoyed alfresco – something we see less of in American Thai food. Food of any kind is thrown on a grill, from chiles, garlic and shallots – the basics for some curries – to meats. These are lightly salted, if at all, and sometimes marinated, leaving them easily accessible to all manner of sauces and dips.

Food: Satays in all the variations, beef, pork, chicken, lamb. Most meat proteins can be grilled over charcoal, from whole fish to chicken to beef that is intended for a salad, as in the beef salad recipe we include.

Wine: Pinot Gris, sweet Riesling or Chenin Blanc if there’s more fat and sugar in the marinade or sauce (like peanut sauce). Dry rosé also worked well here. A surprise winner was dry Lambrusco – with the tannin of red wine and the acidity and chill of white, it straddles two worlds.

Salads and herbs

Papaya, mango and banana blossom are all major ingredients in this group. Lime is also a major flavor component. When a protein such as beef or chicken is present, you’ll find perfumed herbs such as cilantro, mint, basil, lemongrass, magrut lime and galangal.

Food: Green papaya salad, beef salad, chicken or pork larb, green mango salad, green chile sauce, minced catfish salad. Tom yum and tom ka soups (if light on the canned coconut milk) also fit here, due to their use of lime juice and lemongrass or galangal.

Wine: Torrontes, which combines the aromatics of Viognier and the sharp edges of Sauvignon Blanc, was a runaway hit. Albarino, a similar wine, works well too – as do dry Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, though with less finesse. Riesling was a solid performer, the sweetness level matching the dish.

This was one of the few categories where Gewurztraminer worked, though not always – a bit of sweetness helped stave off occasional bitter notes in the wine. Some reds work, too: Lighter Tempranillo, Barbera, Beaujolais, St. Laurent and light Cabernet Franc with the beef salad, and a Chinon even went well with the chile sauce. Some sparkling wines will also work. In all cases, wines with high acid and herbal notes fit the bill.

Fish and fish sauce

Mouthfeel is a major factor in this group, especially with the use of fish sauce or shrimp paste either as ingredients or condiments. Their salty, sharp flavors require an even sharper acidity in wine, even a slightly Sherry-like note that works with the pointed anchovy flavors.

Food: Tod mun (fried fish cakes); fried and grilled fish, which usually are served with nam pla (fish sauce dip); anything else served with nam pla.

Wine: Dry aromatic whites such as Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Edelzwicker. A dry Sherry works well, as would the tangy wines of L’Etoile from France’s Jura region. With more fish sauce, dry wines seem the better match, including Alsatian-style Rieslings. When you add more sweetness, sweet Riesling and even sweet Chenin Blanc are better.

Sweet and sour

One of the most popular flavor combinations in Thai food largely borrows from Chinese tradition. In both food and wine, you need a balance of sweet and acid. Red wines can work, so long as they have a minimum of tannins.

Food: Pad Thai, northern Thai pork curry, tofu tod (deep-fried tofu with sweet-and-sour dip)

Wine: You want high sugar, high acid and a high level of fruit extract – dense, sweet and tart. Hence Riesling is the undisputed winner here, as are Scheurebe, Pinot Gris and other aromatic white wines, the sweetness level matched to the dish. Zinfandel is a good pick among reds, with its lingering sweetness – though be mindful of alcohol levels. Balanced Pinot Noir with just a hint of sweetness can work, too.


Soy sauce often plays a role here, and the combination of salt and fat begs for a lean, fresh wine to cut through and cleanse your palate. Fish sauce adds to the intense salty flavors.

Food: Stir-fried noodles, Thai fried rice.

Wine: A surprisingly versatile category. Dry Riesling, sparkling wine and even Sherry-like wines offset the fat and glutamate flavors. Sweeter wines work when there is sugar in the dish. So do lower-tannin red wines like Barbera and even Merlot. Purely herbaceous wines like Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc were too lean and clashed with the food.


Without canned coconut milk, some dishes in this group overlay with the herbal flavors of salads. With it, you’ll need more direct acidity and sweetness in your wine. Typical takeout curries, with lots of canned coconut milk and sugar, call for sweet, high-acid wines; late-harvest Rieslings are also in order. Curries with little or no coconut milk, especially those from Northern Thailand, often provide the most harmony with wine. (If you’re lucky enough to run into a curry made with fresh – or frozen – coconut milk, the range of wine options open up because fresh coconut is subtle and floral and not clingy in mouthfeel.)

Food: Red, green, yellow, Penang or Mussaman curries are usually made with coconut milk. Northern curries, including “jungle curries” and others called priao wan (sour-sweet) often do not. Complex satay dips often resemble curries, but include ground peanuts.

Wine: When coconut milk is present, as is typical with the sweet spices of Mussaman curry, more texture to the wine is important; you might turn to the richly nuanced white wines of Alsace or the Anderson Valley. Lotus of Siam’s Atcharawan adds another good rule of thumb: Look for wines from a cooler vintage with higher acidity (like 2002 or 2004 in Germany) to match the milk’s density.

Riesling works well across the board – the sweetness level depending on the sweetness of the dish. Fattier dishes can withstand a light red wine – Merlot or, again, Lambrusco. When more herbs and less sugar are present, as with jungle or green curries, consider the same wines that work for salads – including Torrontes, dry Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.

Laarb (Grilled Beef Salad)

1/2 cup dry glutinous (sticky) rice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemongrass
4 slices galangal
4 magrut (kaffir) lime leaves
1 pound beef: filet mignon, loin or flank steak
4 to 5 tablespoons lime juice
3 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons roasted rice powder + more for garnish
1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar or palm sugar
2 tablespoons sliced green onion2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemongrass (tender part only)2 tablespoons sliced shallot
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Cabbage leaves

For the roasted rice powder: In a dry nonstick pan over medium heat, combine rice, lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves, and dry-fry, stirring, shaking and turning the rice and herbs, until the rice grains and herbs tu
rn dark brown and are fragrant, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then grind to a fine powder. The rice powder will keep in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for months.

For the salad: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill beef until medium rare to medium, about 4 minutes per side. If you don’t have a grill, fry the beef on both sides in a little oil. Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips. Place meat and juices in a bowl. Stir in the lime juice, and toss to coat the meat evenly. Add the fish sauce, cayenne, roasted rice powder and coconut sugar. Mix well. Add green onion, cilantro, lemongrass, shallot, mint leaves and sawtooth coriander or cilantro, and toss gently to mix.

Transfer to a serving plate lined with cabbage leaves.