Thursday, June 25, 2009


One may be the loneliest number as "Bread" put forth in the 70's, but in terms of cooking it need not be. Last night I was alone for dinner, something that does not happen often, but something that does give me a chance to explore the notion of cooking for oneself. First I think you need dispel the notion that is hardly worth the effort, "why bother" crossed my mind a few times as I stared at the wide expanse of my refrigerator, "I could have peanut butter and jelly" floated through my brain as I searched for a "proper" meal to make.

Instead of getting discouraged or overwhelmed it is easier to plan for your week's menu as apposed to just one night's. By making a little more of 3 things you can easily eat for the week and save yourself some time on those nights when you feel too tired to deal with the whole cooking process. Example, cook a whole chicken on Monday and make some three bean salad or a garden salad, (covering your leftover with a damp towel, it will last a few days). The chicken will make a nice first night meal and leave you plenty for chicken salad/tossed in pasta, topped on your salad,, the list is endless.

If you are like me and not all that fond of eating the same thing two nights in a row, grill a steak on day two with roasted new potato's, also great fodder for a meal on the fly later in the week. Grill a batch of vegetables, you'll find they come in handy.

Day three, roast a large piece of Salmon, good with your bean salad or on it's own and the leftover holds up well. Flake the "extra" Salmon and toss in some with Fettuccine and garlic cream sauce, add some frozen peas, (we all have those somewhere in the back of the freezer), and a little chopped Prosciutto, you have yourself a quick Pasta Della Nona. I try to keep some Prosciutto in the freezer, it lasts a long time and since it usually packed with paper separating the slices it makes it easy to grab just a bit when you need it.

By planning ahead for your week you can save time in the long run and eat well to boot. If you feel the urge to make a full pan of Lasagna, go right on and do it, when it is cooled, portion it into individual servings and freeze it. Keeping a list of things locked away in your freezer will help you remember what you have stashed away for a rainy day. You can include freezing dates so you know who might be past their prime and experiencing freezer burn.

Another thing about cooking for yourself is it allows you to have total freedom and try new things. You can cater to your own tastes and in the process you may stumble upon your next "Masterpiece" or signature dish.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dinner for three

Finally back to work here after a week in NYC, which one would think was full of great food adventures, sadly I was laying carpet all week and food took a back seat. But the night before I left we had a dinner guest, one of JM's friends from college and JM wanted to make her a fine "nice to see ya" meal.
So I mostly stayed out of the kitchen, going in every once in a while to check on progress or snap a few photos. The one thing I did do was to make an appetizer plate. I love a little nosh in the afternoon and I had those Oysters, (remember those Oysters?) from the Farmers market. What better way to build a plate than around some fresh Oysters and Shrimp? Well add some farmers liverwurst, Black olives and cheeses, you have a snack fit for a Queen. I cheated and used cooked shrimp purchased from Zekes Creek and doctored up some cocktail sauce we had in the fridge from the dawn of time,, does that stuff ever go bad? A little horseradish, lemon and Tabasco and it tasted brand new. Smoked Cheddar and Sheep's milk Blue cheese and crackers rounded out the plate, while I topped the Oysters with Sambal.

JM meanwhile was Roasting a 3 Lbs "spoon" roast, which your butcher these days refers to as a "Sirloin" roast. Rubbed with S&P, smoked Paprika and African Bird pepper, ( a spicy red pepper), the roast was footed and oven ready. Footed, you say? JM had these cool old little spiked feet that you stick into the bottom of the roast to keep it off the roasting pan and give it full air circulation. I had never seen these before and thought they were the coolest thing going, not sure if you can pick them up at a Kitchen store or if they are one of those great ideas that fell by the wayside with the advent of the microwave oven and the "Chop's it All", (see late night infomercials). If you do come across them, I recommend purchasing. She started the roast at 450 degrees for ten minutes, to seal it, then lowered the heat to 325 degrees for an hour. The old standard of 20 minutes per pound works pretty well if you like your meat rare, as we do and you can increase the time by 5 and 10 minutes accordingly for medium and well. Remember to always let your meat rest after cooking, I go with 5 minutes per pound, covered in tin foil to keep some of the heat in.

To go along with the fine offering of cow JM was making Garlic scape's sauteed with Arugula,, all from the farmers market and I was chipping in with Lionaisse potato's. The scapes were cut into "bean" size pieces and tossed in butter, with the Arugula, lemon and S&P, they only take a few minutes, long enough to wilt the Arugula and actually taste a bit like green beans with a hint of garlic. A very short season on those means you will most likely be waiting until next year to try them, but worth the wait.
I attacked the potato's, using Red Bliss, medium sized, about 8 to 10. Sliced and blanched for 10 minutes they were drained and put in a buttered casserole dish. While they cooked I took 1 small white onion, sliced and sweated it in 2 Tbl Butter. Once the onions became translucent I added 2 Tbl flour and cooked that for five minutes, stirring constantly, (well almost constantly), to make a roux. One cup of 1/2/& 1/2 was added with fresh nutmeg, fresh Thyme, white pepper and a pinch of salt.

Brought to a boil and cooked for 5 minutes it was removed from the heat and 1/2 a cup of Pecorino Romano cheese was stirred in, then poured over the potato's. Some Panko bread crumbs topped the dish and covered it went into the oven for 45 minutes along with the roast at 350 degrees. When the roast came out, the tin foil was removed from the Potato's as to let them brown for 10 more minutes. Since everything was cooked, rested and ready JM did the carving and I went back to the Red Sox game, (which we won !) and awaited my feast. Some Store bought Brownies from our local Grocer, (Dave's), who by the way make a mean brownie, (so good in fact I have forsaken making brownies), and some Ginger Ice cream finished a fine meal with good friends, or in this case, friend. So, keep on cooking and have fun, afterall that is really what it is all about.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

correction from last blog

Liverwurst and porkchops were from "Pat's Pastured" meat.............will be back at the blog on monday, am in NYC for the week,, Bruce Cockburn Concert and Sven apartment upgrade,,,paint and new well!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

another day at the market

Saturday seems to come with great frequency these days. Perhaps with the summer my weekdays fly by quicker, or I pay even less attention, if that's possible, to what day of the week it is. Whatever the reason, I woke yesterday to the realization that it was Farmers market and I was hungry for more.

So JM and I grabbed our bags and a small cooler and headed over the bridge to Casey Farm. From the top of the Jamestown bridge we could see clear skies ahead, leaving behind some ominous looking clouds hanging over Newport that had caused some consternation on our parts. I love the Farmers market, but trundling around in the rain is not my idea of a good time, plus it tends to water down my coffee. As we arrived I was happy to see the parking lot was twice as full as it had been on my trip and was informed that on JM's visit the week before it had been much the same. Good to see people are finding Casey farm and the wonderful event there every week.

With the warmer weather and the season moving into full swing the vendors tables are getting full and the choices getting a little more difficult. After all, there is only so much food one can purchase and eat for one week. I left JM with the Meat people from Jamestown's own Watson farm, (sadly they as of yet do not have a website), who provided us with some lovely bone in Rib Eye steaks and Andoullie sausage. Due to some Government regulation they, as well all the meat vendors, are only allowed to sell their product frozen, which is fine, except if you want to run home to throw your "catch" on the grill.

I headed straight to the table housing some of the finest shellfish New England has to offer. Matunuk Oyster Farm, (, did not disappoint, the Oysters, Littlenecks, Steamers and Lobsters looked fantastic. The table had the scent of the Ocean and it's bounty, I could not have been happier, unless I had my oyster knife and a lemon!

We picked up some baby Spinach, more Arugula, Red Turnips and Garlic Scapes, which I had never seen, along with some homemade Liverwurst from Farm Stead Inc,( . The same people I purchased the Pork Chops from a few weeks back that were such a hit I may never look at a pig the same again. There was also my first Strawberry sighting, however I refrained, waiting for another week or so for the flavor to really come out. They did look great, as did everything. I have also been very happy with the freshness of everything I have received from them. The Arugula I got last week was still beautiful by weeks end. Something I can never say about "commercial" Arugula. So any argument you have about higher prices can get tossed out the window when you factor in waste, even if taste was not an issue, which we both know, IS.

Sadly the coffee was not set up when we were at the market and neither of us functions well without it. I left JM at OLGA's Cup and Saucer, ( and went to check out the crowd gathered around the Alpaca's. JM did pick up some scrumptious Ginger Scones and a Calamata Olive loaf and some kind of Coffee cake squares that barley made it home. Everything I have tried of theirs has been great and since they are located across the street from SBI, (photo lab, in Providence), I can vouch for their coffee and friendly service as well, ( side note, nice bathroom too!). Great place for a coffee/cookie break in the middle of a busy day.

I have heard of Alpacas but do not think I have ever seen one, certainly not up close and personal. Let me tell you they are cute little dickens and great for entertaining the kids while you are shopping. It was hard to fight through the munchkins to get close enough for a photo. The people from PARADISE Farm Alpacas, (,
were very informative and the Alpacas seemed to enjoy the attention. I would have liked to ask a few more questions but my coffee Jones was kicking in and I could see JM drifting toward Robin Hollow Farm's table,( ), a sure sign that our weekly trip is coming to an end. So a quick stop to pick up some wonderful flowers, (I highly recommend not leaving without), and we were on our way. The flowers I picked up the previous week were still looking pretty good by weeks end and nothing says summer like having fresh cut flowers on the table by your bedside.

Check back tomorrow to see what becomes of this treasure chest of goodies and have a great day! Remember...WHO'S YOUR FARMER?

Saturday, June 13, 2009


For starters let me say I am sorry for my absence, no excuses, just sorry. I will try not to let it happen again.

Now, lets talk Pork. Last night was one of those cool, border line cold New England day's. All I could think of was comfort food, so I set about making a good old fashioned Mac n' Cheese and something stewed. Now I have not eaten, let alone made Mac n' Cheese in years, but I figured what the heck, how hard can it be? After all my shelves, much like yours, have some sort of pasta hanging around and there is usually some cheese in the fridge, 1/2 & 1/2, (or milk) and bread crumbs. So I sweated 1/2 an onion and a clove of garlic with 1 TBL of butter and 1 TBL of flour for a few minutes then added 1 cup of 1/2 & 1/2, bringing it to a boil. Some S & P, grated nutmeg and fresh thyme went into the pot with 1 cup of cubed aged Cheddar. With the heat off I let the cheddar melt while I boiled 2 cups of small pasta shells, leaving it a little al dente' so as to not overcooked during the final baking. Cooled and rinsed the pasta went into a buttered casserole dish covered with the cheese sauce and topped with some Pecorino Romano cheese and Panko, (Japanese), bread crumbs. This was covered with tin foil and put into the refrigerator for later. Now to getto the star of the evening, our friend the pig. I chose country style Pork ribs, bone in of course and was happy my market had some very meaty ones available. 2 pounds of Pork ribs were salted and went into a heavy bottomed pan to braise. After one side had a nice color to it, I flipped the ribs and added 1 white onion, thinly sliced and 3 cloves of minced garlic, cooking for another five minutes. Then was added 1 can of diced tomatoes and 4 Chipotle peppers,(with Adobo sauce), 1 cup of Chicken stock, 1 TBL Sambal, 4 sprigs of thyme, S & P. Brought to a boil this was covered and turned down to a simmer where it cooked for 90 minutes, the last 30 uncovered. Now while this was simmering I boiled 3 beets for 30 minutes and let them cool in their own liquid. These were to be added some Swiss chard sauteed with garlic and finished with the juice of one lemon. With an hour left on the cooking time for the ribs I put the Mac n' Cheese in the oven, set at 350 degree's, to finish up in time for the ribs to be done. The last 10 minutes of cooking for the mac was done uncovered to give it a crisp crust and some color. The house filled with the smell of ribs and baked goodness just as JM walked in the door from work and dinner was on the table in minutes. Proving once again that planning and timing win in the world of making a nice meal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mommie, why is the fish Blue?

You may remember from yesterday that Greg Zeek, local fisherman/fish monger was saving a few pounds of Bluefish he had caught the previous day for me. True to his word when I stopped in, there he was, smile on his face, fish in hand. It was as nice as I expected it would be.

Bluefish seems to be one of those love it or hate it fish, with the nay sayer's and proponent's firmly ensconced in their own little camps. People say it is oily, or tough and strong is a term I have heard bantered about. Needless to say I do not agree with these descriptions. I am happy however when, for whatever reason people do not scoff up all the Bluefish at first sight, as it leaves more for me and my people, the Bluefish lovers, (sort of like Star belly Sneatches, without the obvious star).

As with yesterdays meal I was going for less is more with my approach to preparation, the A.A. terminology, Keep it Simple Stupid comes to mind, or KISS. But I digress. I took some of the mustard/mint vinaigrette from a few nights ago and brushed the fish lightly with it, giving it a glossy coat, but not enough to pool in the dish. S/P and the juice of 1/2 lemon* finished the prep. The fish was in a Pyrex dish, which was going to go in the oven at 400 degree's for 15 minutes when the time was right. What no grill you ask? Scratching your head, not with the mighty Bluefish. Blue can be delicate and like Salmon the "fattiness" can make for flare ups on the grill. Charred Blue is not good, perhaps one the reasons people say they do not like it. JM likes to wrap the bluefish in tinfoil and toss it on the grill which does give the fish a nice grill flavor. I find that baking the fish brings out the flavor and keeps it very moist. So moist in fact my dinner guest, Sven, thought it was the best Blue he had ever had, high praise from such a Fishavore.

To go along with the aforementioned Bluefish I had some Asparagus, which I planned to steam, then finish with garlic and O.O. in a light saute'.

Remember when your Mother would make three bean salad and you and your sister would shove each other out of the way in an effort to find the best hiding place? Well, as someone far more quotable than me once said, "the times they are a'changing". Three bean salad can be both versatile and healthy. It is very easy to make your own and you do not have to stick to the formula of Green beans, Wax and Kidney beans. In my case I chose Black beans, dark Red Kidney and Cannelli or Navy beans. All canned, drained and rinsed they went into a large bowl with one Red Pepper, small dice, one clove of crushed Garlic, made into a paste with salt, 1/2 cup minced red onion, two ears of roasted corn cut off the cob, a small fistful of cilantro, oregano, S/P, O.O. splash of red wine vinegar,( to taste) and toss it all together. I let it sit at room temperature for one hour to let the flavors blend then refrigerate. Taking the salad out of the cooler a little before service will bring the flavors to the surface.

When roasting the corn, I soak the ear's, husk and all in water for 15 minutes to give it some moisture, then grill or roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. If grilling, just cook until the outer leaves are charred and the corn "gives" to the touch, let cool, shuck and cut.
The usual green salad made an apperance tossed with an Italian vinagrette. Sven chose a beer made by Magic Hat, JM and I water and by all accounts the evening was a sucess, topped off with a Red Sox win!
* add lemon juice one hour before service to avoid "cooking" with the acid from the lemon

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hook, line and sinker

Fishing season for commercial fishermen officially opened yesterday and as luck would have it I have one of Rhode Islands finest, most avid fisherman living right here on my little Island. What makes this is even more important to someone like me who does not know a hook from a line, and thinks a sinker is something Jonathon Paplebon, (pitcher for the Boston Red Sox), needs to incorporate into his arsenal, is that Greg Zeek has a nifty little bait shop that sells locally caught fish.

Zeeks Creek Bait & Tackle Inc
194 North Rd Jamestown, RI 02835401-423-1170

Zeeks has been selling quality, high quality fish for as long as I can remember out of a shop the size of a postage stamp. JM and I mark the day this gem opens on our calendar and cry when they close in the fall. I try to get there early and see what the day, or the night has brought and avoid the rush, or finding out later that I missed out on some Bluefish that was caught on last night's line. So much to my joy I was greeted yesterday with some of the nicest Stripped Bass I have seen, (well, since, last summer).

As three lovely ladies made their rather large purchase I eagerly ordered the last two filet's in the ice chest and was rewarded with 1.5 Lbs of Bass that had been swimming happily along the shores of Narragansett Bay only 12 hours previously. This beauty had been 30 plus pounds!

Determined to do as little as possible to change the natural goodness of this prize fish I marinated the fillets in O.O., S/P, a few slices of red onion, cilantro leaves, 2 crushed Garlic cloves and an hour before service, the juice of one lime. I really just wanted the flavor of Stripped Bass to be the star of the plate. To accompany the Fish I had some Beets and a Sweet Potato I planned on simply roasting, tossed with O.O., S/P, Garlic and Onion powder. Roasting the Beets brings out all the sugars and the color is wonderful. Again, there are times when less is more and this is one of them. Simple treatment of the freshest products. At this point I am doing my best to just not mess with the essence or integrity of the product. There is a whole school of thought behind this, spearheaded by Tom Colicchio' at Craft in NYC.

For the most part I think this is a great approach as we seem to be leaning toward doing more to our food and changing the product to our liking as opposed to letting it shine on it's own.

After grilling the Stripped Bass, 6 minutes or so per side, shining is what we had. Meaty, light, tender, the adjectives and a few expletives just rolled off the tongue as the fish melted in our mouths. The Beets and Sweets roasted at 350 degrees for just under and hour in my trusty Pyrex dish,( I love Pyrex as it imparts no flavor to the food and easy to clean). A green salad as always was present at the table along with some sparkling water, though a nice wine would have made a fine choice.
Tonight I have company coming and am heading back to Zeek's for some Bluefish I spied, which Greg assured me he would hold a few pounds of for me in case I am not the first in line. Not sure what I will be doing with it, but I can be assured of it's freshness and a summer full of more to come. If your not lucky enough to find yourself in Jamestown in the summer look around your neck of the woods and find a local fish monger. For those inlanders out there, and I feel for you, many of the co-ops and "natural food" stores have pefectly fine fish departments. Inquire as to when and where your fish comes from and plan accordingly. You can always plan a road trip to the shore, bring a cooler full of ice and tell Greg I sent you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Left overs, right here

Having some "extra" sauce, or left over grilled veggies, a little wild rice, can make a great new meal a very simple task. Take last night for instance. While perusing the fridge I found some of my Tomatillo sauce that had originally gone with Mahi Mahi , (see "Everybody to the Grill", May 27th), the other night. After tasting it I was pleased to find a few days had done it wonders, all the flavors melding together and the heat level significantly higher. Last nights wild rice was sitting pretty in a bowl and looking like it might like to come and play one more night, as well as JM's Rhubarb salsa. Low and behold there were also some grilled vegetables. Now all I needed was a protein and the Bone-in Pork chops I picked up at the farmer's market on Saturday would do the trick. These babies were a thing of beauty, two rib chops weighing in at almost 2 Lbs, they looked more like fine Veal Chops than pork. Being farm raised and organic made them an easy choice for a quick dinner. It had been a long day, doing yard work and catching up on some blogging duties I had been lax about. The pork chops got a healthy dose of Chimayo "special" spice mix, which I have still been unable to pry the exact ingredients out of the good people at Milagrossa Mercatido out of, but I am sure it has red chili, onion, garlic, salt, cumin and a few other things in. Drizzled with olive oil they went back in to the ice box for a few hours while I added the leftover salsa to the wild rice. With a splash of red wine vinegar and O.O., S/P, a few TBL of salsa fresca, (store bought) and a squeeze of lemon the wild rice salad was finished. The grilled veggies and some salad leftovers were going to finish this meal so I went back to watching the Red Sox beating up on Toronto,( finally), and relaxed for the rest of the day. About an hour before service I pulled out the Rice salad and the sauce, veggies and some of those lovely garlic bulbs I bought at the market. The sauce , salad, and veggies needed to get to room temperature to bring out the full flavor. After firing up the grill I tossed on the garlic bulb and a few jalapenos to roast. they were soon blackend and ready to come off, only to be replaced by the Pork chops. About 6 minutes a side did the trick and five minutes to rest while I set up the plates and dressed the salad.This whole meal took no more than 20 minutes to throw together and it was dynamite. The Pork might as well have been Veal chops, when I am the farmers market next week I will get the name and web address of the supplier, these were the best chops I have had since my restaurant days when we often saved the best cuts for ourselves, (don't mention that to my former employer's). So do not dread the leftover dinner, sometimes with a little planning and a bit of luck the student might surpass the master. You be the judge !

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Farmers market is here !

You know summer is upon us when the farmer's gather weekly on your town common or the parking lot of the local co-op or in my case at Casey Farm in Saunderstown RI. A beautiful farm over looking the Narragansett bay with their own supply of goodies, every Saturday morning other farmers, cheese makers and bakeries join them for a romping good time. Tents pop up, tables come out and are filled with fresh herbs, flowers, vegetables, even shellfish and meats. All to picked through, ogled over and enjoyed under the blue summer skies.

This was the first time I had been to the market, sad to say as I have lived in the area for 30 years, but hey, what can I say ? I bought into the whole "why buy local quality when I can get mass produced ,chemically enhance food for 1/3 the price?" I have been to farmers markets , so before you storm my home in the middle of night with fiery sticks and pitchforks, please try to calm the townsfolk, I have just not been to THIS one. A mistake I have now corrected and am grossly ashamed to admit.

The day was one of those days the New England tourism bureau likes to film propaganda. Blue skies, big sun, salt air, bumble bee's doing their thing, little children running around in funny hats chasing farm cats while unconcerned parents sip fresh ground coffee and munch on warm baguette's with local honey or gooey cheese made right down the road. So I tossed on my Birkenstock's, (kidding, I do not own Birkenstock's), and joined the happy mob.

Grabbing a coffee and Cinnamon roll, which was more like a cinnamon croissant, light, fluffy, just a little cinnamon and brown sugar,( ), I toured the tables letting the colors and smells fill my head and imagination. Seeing what dinner plans would pop into my head or where the morning would lead me. I also took some pictures and just enjoyed the people watching. Everything looked great, the selection still a little sparse, mostly herbs, lettuces, radishes, flowers, but the promise of more to come was in the air. As I heard the farmers answer questions about what was on the horizon I realized this will become a weekly pilgrimage over the course of the summer.

I picked up some fingerling radishes, single bulb garlic stalks that look like scallions or baby leeks, Arugula, assorted wild flowers and some one pound bone-in pork chops. A smoked cheddar and some of the creamiest Blue cheese I have ever had, ( ), filled my bag.

Since it was not my night to cook dinner I had visions of a salad with the Arugula, one of my all time favorite greens, the radishes, garlic and blue cheese, all tossed with a Mint and mustard vinaigrette I had been thinking about since i had noticed the Mint was looking particularly jaunty in the herb garden the other day. I made a quick call to JM to make sure she did not need anything for "her" dinner and was told to she was still planning and she would figure it all out by game time.
Let me tell you she did!

It all started because we have an abundance of Rhubarb growing in our garden and every year we say "we need to do something WITH this !"

Rhubarb Salsa :

1 c rhubarb, diced small; blanch for 10 sec and rinse with cold water to stop cooking

1/2 c yellow (and/or orange, red) pepper, diced small

1 Sm jalapeno, diced small

1 slice red onion, diced small

Mix juice of 1/2 lime with big pinch of brown sugar and small pinches of salt & black pepper, then stir into veg and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Rub for chicken:

Grind together Balinese long pepper, fennel seed, dried thyme, dried rosemary, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, ground sage. Then grind in juice of 1/2 lime and enough olive oil to make a loose paste to massage onto chicken.

Refrigerate for at least two hours.
The salsa was made, the chicken marinated, then tossed on the grill as the house and yard filled with that amazing odor of grilling meat and fat hitting the open flame. The wild rice simmered in the kitchen while I put together the salad and made Mustard Mint dressing, with a little Rice Wine Vinegar, O.O.,S/P, fresh mint and a squeeze of Lemon. JM was on the grill and Bob Dylan was on the stereo.

So it was that Chicken JM was born!
I made the salad I had been thinking about earlier and we had a wonderful summer evening.

My day started out with a great trip that I hope to make a summer ritual and ended with a face covered in chicken juice, it's only May!

live'r let die

Liver you say? Liver, really? Chicken livers? Beef? The bodies filtration system makes a fine meal for me and my family?, I don't think so. My Mother made chicken livers every once in while, they were dried and gross and had weird texture, like warm paste. Well my friend, my Mother made chicken livers too and let me tell you, properly handled the chicken, or beef liver can be a wonderful thing. First off, they are cheap, I mean cheap and a great source of protein. Secondly and most importantly, if they are not overcooked and properly seasoned, they are delicious.

My Friday at the market started out with plans of roasted Sausages, with grapes and balsamic vinegar, (some thing we will be seeing in the near future), I was having a hankering for mashed potato's, light fluffy, garlic ,buttery starch. The sausages at the store looked less than appetizing and I was forced to continue my search, adapt, overcome and such. A few weeks back JM and I were craving Livers. A cold blustery New England day on the shore, drizzle of rain and comfort food was calling. However on that day chicken livers were not to be had, we later discovered Friday is the day the chicken liver usually hit the shelves and they last as long as they last, then it is tough luck Charlie, (or in this case, Bruce), until the following Friday. Something to keep in mind when buying livers of any kind is that freshness is your friend, not to say you ever want to but "old" food, but with an internal organ I like to find one that recently had an owner.So shop somewhere where you see the Livers one day and they are gone the next, if you notice the same package of liver hanging around your store you might want to ask your butcher, or look elsewhere.

So with liver in hand I trundled off home and eagerly awaiting my dinner companion. I usually treat livers rather simply and just salted, peppered them with a little red chili powder for spice, then dusted with flour and into a hot pan,(with high sides, Livers spit and pop as they cook, so care is to be taken). Peanut oil works best for the frying as it has a high burn temperature and little flavor. Let them get a good crust, golden brown, before turning and try not to fool with them too much, you can bruise or damage them easily and you want them to seal, holding in all the goodness until your fork pierces them. Once flipped, I added a thinly sliced Vidalia Onion, one large jalapeno, sliced, seeds and all. The livers should take around 3-4 minutes per side.
Then finish the cooking with a splash of chicken stock. You can also add red wine or demi glaze or Marsala, all which make a nice different flavor profile. Give the stock/wine/demi a couple of minutes to mix with the roux that has formed from the flour and oil and you will have nice coating sauce for your livers and something to soak up with your mashed potato's. The livers should be medium rare to medium, still pink and juicy, if you feel like your livers are overcooking you can take them out of the pan and let the onion/jalapeno finish with the sauce and add the livers at the last few minutes or pour the sauce over the cooked treats.
A simple side salad and some garlic rubbed French bread finished out the meal, everyone was fat and pleased. The lesson here is, just because your Mother made a horrible mess of your chicken livered childhood do not fear the Reaper and give it another try. As we age our taste buds mature and you might find a new pal in the liver. Of course all food is not for everyone, you might find you still think eating liver is something to be saved for the brink of starvation, but at least you tried.

I was going to include a picture of two to entice you into the LiverDome, but sadly Liver is not the most photogenic of foods, so cook your own and enjoy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stocking stuffers

Keeping your shelves stocked with certain staples makes cooking a great dinner on the fly easy. If all you have to do is buy a protein , some veggies and come home to a house filled with international goodies and flavors, your imagination and palate are your only limitations. Most condiments and oils, vinegars have a pretty decent shelf life and if you live alone or with one other person, your fridge has space to spare. We have a chest freezer and small “college” fridge in the basement which gives us more than enough room to play with, but we are bit on the excessive side.
Having all the extra’s makes Italian/Mexican/French or American Bistro meals an easy dinner. You buy some chicken, you have a lemon, look, some capers, chicken stock, butter, little fresh parsley right outside your door,,my, my….. “chicken picatta” at your finger tips. Put a date on your spices and condiments and make sure you rotate your stock, but with simple planning you can keep a well stocked larder and make any recipe from any book, including your own at any time. Here is a partial list of some of the things that live in my fridge at all times.
1) Sambal….Asian chili paste
2) Capers
3) Olives of all colors
4) Soy sauce
5) Sesame oil
6) Hot chili oil
7) Red and green curry paste
8) Hoisin sauce
9) A multitude of mustards
10) Hot sauce(s)
11) BBQ sauce, or three
12) A buttermilk based salad dressing
13) Pickles
14) Lemon/lime
15) Onion red and white
16) Mayo
17) Anchovies/anchovie paste
18) Sun dried tomato paste
19) Harissa
20) Pickled herring, just kidding, wanted to see if you were paying attention

The dry good are just as important, however here is where dating and packaging becomes a little more important. Things tend to lost on the shelve or forgotten, pushed aside or fallen behind. Plastic air tight containers are good, as well zip lock baggies. Here are some of the things rolling around our kitchen cabinet. I am going to discount the obvious,, sugar, flour, salt, if you don’t already have these things you may well have starved to death already and will not find this list helpful at all.
1) Blue corn flour
2) Canned tomato products…paste, whole, chopped
3) Red wine vinegar
4) Rice wine vinegar
5) Balsamic vinegar
6) Cider vinegar
7) High grade virgin Olive Oil..for finishing salads/sauces
8) Peanut Oil (burns at a higher temp than other oils)
9) Vegetable oil
10) Crisco
11) Instant grits
12) Panko crumbs
13) Raisins, golden/black
14) Kidney beans/chic peas/navy beans, canned for a quick salad or soup addative
15) Dried pinto/black beans
16) Assorted rice’s, brown/white/wild…couscous
17) Dried chili peppers
18) Sardines
19) Assorted stocks, chicken/beef/fish
20) Hormel chili, every once in a while I just don’t have the energy to do anything

Along with this goes the spice crowd, which can have anything you are fond of, or needed 1 tsp of for some obscure recipe you were trying and the bottle went back on the shelf, never to be opened again. If you can’t remember what you used the spice/herb for, toss it. If it seems like it was not that long ago, try to use it for something, add it an old favorite, or invent a new one. I usually have curry powders, chili powders, garlic powder, onion powder, stay away from garlic salt/onion salt, better to add your own salt.
As for salt I like sea salt and kosher, but do keep “table” salt around for salting water or melting the ice at the kitchen door in the winter. Fennel seeds, caraway, nutmeg, ginger powder, Chinese five spice, garam masala, vanilla bean, mustard powder, smoked paprika and anything else you come across and find yourself needing. I do keep some dried herbs, but try to use fresh, or my own dried herbs from the gardens abundance of the summer months.
It all sounds like a lot of work, but if you spend one day late in the summer turning all your basil into pesto, tying and drying your herbs, making chutney out of your hot peppers, you’ll have winter filled with stuff you made and do not have to buy. Tastes great and might even give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The same goes for making stocks. Store and save your chicken bones in the freezer, when you have enough, make a batch of stock and freeze it in small portions, or fill ice cube trays, freeze and pop out little sauce additives, sometimes all a good sauce needs is a little stock, or demi glaze.

If you are making a batch of cookies, make two, take one and roll it up in a log, wax paper it, freeze. Then the next time you are having a late night cookie crisis you can cut a few slices and have warm fresh cookies with your milk. I love making lasagna but always have a hard time eating the entire thing, so frozen portions end up in plastic bags right next to the meatballs and meat loaf. If you keep a list of what is in your freezer posted on the door you will find it easier to remember and use what is in there. You can essentially make your frozen dinners, putting Stouffers out of business.
I always have chips and salsa, hummus and crackers, olives and pickled jalapenos at hand for that snack on the fly, or impromptu Baseball snack, you never know when a game may go extra innings. Olives, cheese and an apple served with crackers may come in handy when you forget to turn the oven on after you have already out the roast in. So eat, enjoy and experiment, the foods in your fridge and on your shelf may maker strange yet welcome bedfellows.
Just one more note, if you come across these chips and you like spice and flavor, buy these and get the big bag, hide it from your friends and have yourself a party.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

you can't always get what you want

Off to the market I go,checking to make sure i have my "green" bag from the co-op, doing my thing to slow the amount of plastic trash floating around the planet. I have a plan, a vision, something in mind for dinner, i can see it now, all coming together on one glorious plate, the flavors melting together in my mouth, the colors, a painting on the plate, the smiles of my guest(s), it all seems so right.

However when i get the store, my trusty butcher, my friendly meat dealer has not provided me with the cut of meat my heart desires, woe is me as my hopes are dashed and i have to plan on the fly, improvise, adapt, overcome, hell, it works for the Marines, why not me? Looking at the meat department shelves through tear stained eyes I survey the landscape and spy some Top Round roasts, not only on sale, but in my size range for two people. Elbowing my way past a little old man with similar intent , I make for my prize and go to return the baby spinach i had picked up to go with my now defunked plan of mustard/marjoram/panko crusted pork tenderloin.

Have no fear, before i departed i dusted off the gentlemen and helped him reach a smaller top round on one of the upper shelves, chivalry is not dead, but meat before honor i always say, OK, so I have never said that, but it fits and i will continue to say it from now on when circumstances fit.

With roast in hand, some Brussels sprouts, a sweet potato, bag of popcorn and some hood ice cream sandwich's i got out of the store before i caused any more disturbances. My point is ,( you were wondering), no matter how well you plan or how well your grocer is stocked ,things do not always go as planned and you need to be flexible. It happens all the time, more often with fish, as i go to the market and the fish i desired is just not up to snuff, or not there at all, but it can happen with meat or veggies, hell, even condiments. I do not always go with a plan, or a menu in my head, sometimes i just go and see what catches my eyes or stirs my hunger.

Farmers markets are the best place to browse, let the market and season dictate your dinner plans, this is the best time of year as new things arrive every week. New colors, new textures, new flavors to combine in a new way.

The aforementioned roast was 2.2 lbs, just right for two over eaters ,with a small chance of leftovers for a sandwich the next day. I liberally salted and peppered the meat and rolled in chopped thyme, rosemary and oregano, (provided by the little greenhouse, so loving tended to by JM, that lives right outside the kitchen door). A dash of garlic, onion powder and some Olive Oil finished the prep on the mighty beast, it was still early afternoon, so covered into the fridge it went.

The Sprouts and sweet potato were clean, trimmed and chopped accordingly, seasoned with whole garlic cloves, cumin, ground coriander, S/P+ O.O.,(olive oil) and some crushed red pepper flakes.

A quick easy set up and my work was done for the afternoon, so i settled into a Orioles/Blue Jays game and some cracker jack, (Baltimore won in a walk off 12/10 in the 11th). Really i was only in the kitchen for 15 minutes, tops. Cooking was also a breeze, 15 minutes at 475 degrees, giving the roast a five minute head start, I did not want the garlic to burn in the sprout mix, then turning it all down to 350* for 35 minutes, taking out the roast and letting it rest for 10 minutes while the sweets/sprouts finished up. I had some mushrooms running around in the crisper so those ending up in a saute pan, with some O.O. splash of red wine and some demi glaze that has been in the freezer for the past 9 months, all packaged up in little zip lock bags, portioned for quick sauce use.

Just another one of those things that is great to have on hand, takes little effort to make and stores well. If you make one good size batch of demi glaze a year you have happy sauces all year long. It is easy to make and if you need help, just ask me, or look it up, or wait long enough and keep following along, i am getting low and will have to make a new batch in the upcoming months, so I will be happy to walk you down the garden path.

Something else to keep in mind and is often overlooked is letting you meat rest, all meat needs to rest after cooking, I go with about 5 minutes per pound, just cover it with tin foil to keep it warm and let nature do the rest(ing). Even meat that appears overcooked can even out in the resting time and become a nice juicy dinner.
A simple plating and nice salad rounded out the dinner, sadly it was so good all hopes of leftovers were dashed upon the rock as JM and I cleared our plates like Olympic hurdlers, better luck next time. I like having leftover and the challenge of making them into something, but I am fine with starting fresh every night and tonight is movie night, so we are headed to Tio Mateo's Mexican Grill for shrimp tacos. They make the best Diablo sauce, dark, scorched and spicy, I highly recommend them if you are in the East Greenwich RI area. They also house some of my Black and White photos so I hold a soft spot in my stomach for them, Matt and his wife, whose name i can never remember,( and have met to many times to ask politely), do a great job, good prices and really fresh ingredients. Sadly they recently took Horchata, ( a Mexican drink made of rice milk, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg), off the menu, due to lack of interest on the part of New Englander's to try something new, (my words, not theirs, so don't chastise them if you see them, send all complaints to my complaint department). I will answer all your complaints and comments in due time, well comments will get a quicker response than complaints. But some feed back would be nice. Enjoy the day whatever it brings, and if you can,, eat it!