Friday, October 15, 2010


Sometimes when dining out as I peruse the menu, my eye wanders from the main attraction, a grilled Sea Bass or braised Veal shank, to the right side of the page, though not all the way to the prices, not wanting that to ruin a good meal. But to the side dishes, the "WITH'S", as it were,  often determine my choice for the evening, other times the a particularly scrumptious appetizer might be in the drivers seat and steer the courses to follow. The same this can happen with home dinners and did just that when I woke with a burning desire for Eggplant. Perhaps it had been the Italian cookbook I had been reading before bed, or perhaps the dark purple, splendid smooth skin and tender flesh beneath this regal vegetable had crept in to my dreams. Generally served Parmesan style, fried to a golden brown and napped in rich tomato sauce, I grew to love freshly fried eggplant from years of cooking it 3 times a week in Italian restaurants, dipping morsels too hot to touch in to vat's of simmering tomato sauce on the way to yet another smoke break. So I had Eggplant on the brain, my dilemma was I also had some scallops that were in danger of needing an eviction notice from their residency in our fridge. Having recently had a meal with tomato sauce within the past few days it's inclusion redundant. Luck, timing or providence then reared it's pretty head when Chicken fried steak was featured on a cooking show I was channel surfing past. Let me mention I detest chicken fried steak and have never had a decent one in all my years of traveling .When I was young my Father and I logged many a road mile, him fueled on the previously mentioned culinary abortion. The idea however had planted a seed and I decided to use the scallops, in a "white" sauce, to dress the eggplant, accentuate it, put it in a sexy evening dress and send it out on the town.
Frying eggplant, or anything for that matter is not that daunting a project, but it does take some organization and counter space. You need to set up a small assembly line, complete with flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs and last but not least, a frying station. Before you start opening cabinets in a fury, searching for the breadcrumbs you know you bought, you should "bleed" the eggplant. Eggplant can have a bitter flavor, more so when unripe, so bleeding out the bitterness by salt extraction is prudent. Cut your eggplant in to pinkie width, ring finger for those of you with small digits, slices, skin on, or off and place on a cookie sheet, or even cooling rack, as you will want one later anyway. Liberally sprinkle with salt, Kosher works best, you can see the chunks and let sit for 45 minutes, then wipe off the liquid, a salty, bitter brew and discard paper towel. Turn the eggplant over and repeat, this all may seem like a lot, but it will give you time to make a tomato sauce, take the trash or let the cat in. I used the time to set up my breading station. Using two Pyrex dishes and a bowl, I filled the Pyrex with one cup of flour, salted and another with seasoned breadcrumbs. You can use Panko, seasoned, unseasoned, (season yourself), or best of all, homemade, something even I rarely do. Mix up one or two room temperature eggs and you are ready to bread. Breading is simple and not all that messy if you remember to keep one hand for wet and one hand for dry, never the two to meet. Drop a few slices of eggplant in to the flour and jerk the dish back and forth, using the same action you might when sauteing, or flipping an omelet. pat off excess and move to the egg wash, careful to coat the whole slice. Now with your "wet" hand, drain the eggplant, (let the wash drip off), and place in the dish with the breadcrumbs, shaking again and this time giving the vegetable a gentle pat to ensure full coating. Once you have done this with all your slices and you have a nice layered stack, you are ready to fry baby.
Here is where I think most home cooks get a little nervous. Home frying can be a daunting prospect. Some folks will have a "Fry Daddy" or the George Foreman easy fryer Aunt Josie bought you for your 10th wedding anniversary, but for most people, me included, a thick bottomed and high sided pan will be the tool of choice. After you have selected your pan, your second big choice will be what kind of oil should you fry in. I am not going to try to lecture you, nor influence you on the oil you like. Some swear by Canola, while others will tell you Canola causes cancer and creates children with 8 fingers. Olive oil, vegetable oil, lard,, you name it, it is out there and someone will tell you it is good and someone will tell you it is bad. I like Peanut oil, low taste and high burn temperature, again,, my choice and at this moment in time my government has not tried to regulate my use of frying oil, though that day make not be long in coming.
For this dish you do not
Now onto the Scallops, you remember the scallops,, this is a song about the scallops. If you feel confident as the eggplant are frying away, you can start the protein for your dinner. I used sea scallops, but if you like, as did my father, Bay's are fine. Smaller and some say sweeter they cook too quickly for my liking in this dish, but hey, it's your kitchen. After "footing", (removing connective muscle), scallops I pat dry and sear on high heat on side of the scallop in butter. Once the scallop has a nice crust and seal, I removed from the pan and set aside, adding 1/2 sliced Spanish onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic and 2 cups of mixed mushrooms. I went with Oyster and Shitake' mushrooms for their silky texture and lack of color, as I wanted to keep the sauce as white as possible. Sweat the onions/mushrooms until they have released their juices and the liquid in the pan has evaporated. then add 1 cup of heavy cream, bring the heat up and reduce by half. At this point I returned the scallops to the pan, hit them with the juice of half a lemon, salt and white pepper and a handful of chopped chives. Let the scallops finish cooking and add a 1/4 cup of grated pecorino, parmesan or cheese of your liking.
We are coming down the home stretch. All that is left is plating and receiving the admiration of your dinner companion, clamouring guest or the confused look from your pet as you walk your creation through the dining room with the pomp and circumstance usually reserved for kings, queens or the pope. I used the eggplant as my base and partially covered it with the scallop and sauce mixture. You can serve any side dish you like, I went with a crisp salad of Romaine, Radishes and Italian dressing.

So enjoy your evening and your company, keeping in mind that your leftover eggplant freezes very well and can later be used in a more tradional manner, such as Eggplant parmesean, made easy now that you have a stash of homemade fried eggplant. Keep cooking and share.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


What makes a good hostess, or host?
A good host someone who opens their home and their heart to you, who makes you feel their home is your home, your basic needs never going neglected. Weather it be a cocktail party,  dinner for eight, picnic for two or a weekend by the sea. A host should have a clean, (within reason), clutter free and warm environment to greet you.  Your host should be provider and tour guide, taking you on a journey away from your day to day, a magical place where good food, conversation and comfort rule with an iron fist.
Transversely as a guest you bear half the responsibility as well, or at the very least forty percent. A good guest should be respectful of your hosts possessions and property, considerate to likes and dislikes of the host, accustomed to the ways of land and most of all, along for the ride. A gift is always a nice touch and a staunch refusal to allow your host to do dishes goes a long way with the Miss Manners crowd, as a host your job now becomes to dissuade your guest from toiling in the dish pit, this battle should take no longer than 7  minutes and the results will vary depending the participants. If your an overnight guest, leaving the room the way you found it and doing some manual labor, yard work, making the morning coffee or building a sculpture, is always appreciated.
The simple nuance of the host/guest relationship is a dance, best done with familiar partners, though there is something to be said for bringing a group of strangers together for a magical night . In a time of the Internet, instant messaging, email relationships, the simple act of dinner together need to be cherished. Like the fading elegance of the Thank You note, putting pen to paper, stamp to tongue, a visceral connection in recognition of time well spent.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Veal stew with artichokes and chives, served with parmesan polenta

I love summer and the food that surrounds it. As summer is officially over and we move into fall and winter, more so on some nights, the stews and comfort food start to make an appearance. Though last night was not cold, or even cool I felt compelled to make something homey and soft, ( Jane is having tooth trouble). I like making meals that require some cooking time and can be prepared hours before service, it makes eating them more enjoyable for me as well, I can forget that I made the dish and just eat it. Another nice thing about stews and such is that you can work with the flavors over time, change things you don't like, or let new things develop, never know what direction something, even an old favorite might take.
Starting with 2 Lbs of veal stew meat, seasoned with dried sage, cumin, salt and pepper and dredged in flour, brown in 3 Tbl olive oil on both sides, you are looking for a good crust to seal the meat. Make sure you do this in a heavy bottomed pot, as burning can be an issue. I have this funny beat up pot my Mother likely bought in the 50's and somehow has survived both her and at times my nomadic lifestyle, but NOTHING burns in it, I love it.
Add 1 Spanish onion, lg dice
2 carrots, cut in similar size to the onions
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Sweat these for ten minutes, stirring from time to time.
Add 3 cups beef stock, 15 minced capers, 1 sprig of rosemary,10 chives, chopped, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper, bring to a slow boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 1/2 hour. Uncover and add one can,, yes can,, I said it, sometimes canned artichokes just easier and in the winter, far more available. I used pre quartered artichokes, but you can quarter your own, or if really feeling ambitious you can use fresh. At this point you are just adjusting the thickness of the sauce by reduction, so the ball is in your court,, thick or thinner,, both are delicious and depending on what you are serving the stew with may dictate how thick the sauce is. Right before service I check for seasoning and added some more fresh chives.
For the polenta you can use instant, or plain corn meal. I substitute stock, in this case beef, for water and added grated Parmesan and butter at the end.
A bowl seemed the only fitting vessel for this meal with the veal stew sitting on top of the polenta, garnish with scallions, the whole meal was served with a micro green salad, Italian dressing and some warm corn bread. Since most of the work, short of the polenta was done by mid afternoon, I was able to sit down and dig in, kitchen clean and conscience clear. So enjoy and share..whats for dinner tonight?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy mock Mole'

If you have never heard of, let alone tried Mole' sauce you are in for a treat and should try it the first time you it see available at any authentic Mexican restaurant you happen to come upon. Mole' varies from place to place, region to region and in some cases, day to day. Take a moment and look it up on wikipedia sometime, there is a history and a tale as rich as the sauce itself. I won't go in to the details, but the basic premise is that it is a sauce of great honor and tradition, to be served and eaten on special occasions and with reverence with loved ones.

That being said, let me say this is not the end all, be all, Mole' recipe. It is really something I threw together last minute when I was looking for something to with the excess of chicken I had leftover. This coincided with my discovery that the "bbq" sauce I had been thawing, (the label had long since slipped off, if ever there at all), was in fact some Ancho chilie sauce I made a few months back. Ancho chilies are dried pablano peppers and readily available in any gourmet/local store. They have a rich, slightly bitter flavor and great color. My Ancho sauce consists mainly of 10 dried ancho chilies, soaked in hot/hot water for over and hour and up to a day. De stem and rinse the seeds out, toss in a blender with 2 roasted/peeled/seeded red peppers, 6 blackened roma tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, 2 Tbl olive oil and 1/2 cup of chicken stock,( beef or veg will do)...and blend until smooth. Scald in a cast iron pan and simmer for 20 minutes. It stores well and goes great with fish/fowl or meat. Plus, as in this case, it works for a base for other stuff,,always a plus in my book.

I gently reheated 1 Qt Ancho sauce, and added 1Tbl cumin, 1 Tbl Chimayo red chilie powder, 1 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt/pepper to taste, mixing it in while the sauce is not yet heated, it mixes smoother when not hot. Then reduce to around 3 cups, or until you get a nice sauce consistency. Now for the big finish,,the chocolate, I used 3 squares of Lindt chococlate with chili, which I seem to see at every store I run into. You can use any kind you like, I would stick with higher grade, don't toss in a Hershey bar, ideally some Mexican chocolate would be wonderful. Again,, this was a toss together meal, so work with me.

So we have our sauce, all we need now is a good civil engineer and we can start to construct our masterpiece. As I mentioned, I had a few cups of chicken meat, pulled from the previous nights roasted bird, corn tortillas, ( a fridge staple), jack and cheddar cheese, cilantro and diced spanish onion. I find that warming the tortillas in the microwave the easiest for this and placed 4 corn tortillas in a small plastic bag, micro for 30 seconds and let them steam in the bag for a few moments before assembling, caution, there will be steam, hot tortillas and potential danger, have no fear,, trundle on. Place tortillas on cutting board and put a little sauce on each, followed by shredded chicken, lightly seasoned with salt/pepper, chilie powder and lime, sprinkle some raw onions and cheese and roll,,you do know how to roll don't you? Put down some sauce in an oven safe dish, lay filled tortillas on top and cover with sauce and cheese. Bake, covered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover for ten more, or until cheese and sauce is bubbling and brown.

In this case I had some canned re fried beans, yes canned re fried beans, sometimes you do what you have to, for a side dish and since dinner really did not take up much time I made a Avocado "relish" to top the enchiladas with. The relish is just basic guacamole, but instead of smashing all the ingredients together, I dice the avocado and fold in the cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime and salt, which by the way kills on chips.

All this really shows is that you can toss together anything from your fridge in a small amount of time, if you look at it with an open mind, and might just stumble on to your own masterpiece. So get started creating and might like the resulting smiles.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sole stuffed with smoked bluefish.......?

This may sound like more work than some of our previous projects, however it can be done in stages and you will be done before you know it. The summer of 2010 has not been the best fishing season in recent years, partially due to new restrictions limiting size and amount of the catch, so I have been finding different things to do with what is available, local and fresh. After a steady diet of swordfish and scallops I decided to look no further than our flat little friend,, the fillet of Sole. I like it for its versatility, consistency in size and subtle flavors. Easily pan fried with a lemon, caper sauce or lightly breaded and baked, it cooks quick and is a nice source of protein.

I knew I had to make something a little special, since Jane had been digging in the rocky shore line to provide our appetizer, so I entered Zeek's Creek fish and bait shack with thoughts of Bluefish, or Bass. Finding none of the previously mentioned delicacies I perused the usual suspects and thought the Sole looked the happiest among the clan. Right next to the sole was some of Zeek's smoked Bluefish, lightly smoked and studded with peppercorns,,,, a light bulb went off in my head,,and sole stuffed with smoked bluefish, spinach and cream cheese was born!

Now all this was going to need was a sauce and I was on my way, since I had a large bag of basil from the farmers market, I thought it sounded like a good time to make some pesto for the winter and use a little on the fish tonight.

Making pesto is not hard and does not take long, it freezes well and is so much less expensive to make than purchase, plus you can tailor the taste to your liking. I find most commercial pesto's to be a weak in the garlic department and for me, a good garlic base defines a good pesto.

1 Lbs basil leaves, large stems discarded

1/2 cup toasted crumbled walnuts, pine nuts or try different nuts..Almonds...Pistachios..

5 cloves peeled garlic

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt..pepper to taste

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Wash the basil well, pat dry and place in blender or food processor, add remaining ingredients and pulse/grind until you have a smooth paste. You may need to add more olive oil and you will need to push down the side with a rubber spatula for an even grind. In the end you will have around 2 cups of pesto which you can put up in portion size containers and freeze for the long winter. When storing, be sure to cover the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil,, it will help prevent browning. If browning does occur the top layer can be tossed out, or mixed in, depending on your mood and the quality of the company you are feeding.

On to the main course,, stuffing the fish. For starters mix 4 oz of room temperature cream cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup shredded smoked bluefish.. you can substitute smoked salmon, oysters or trout, juice of 1/4 lemon and some chives, salt and pepper to taste keeping in mind the bluefish is peppery, set aside.

Blanch a large handful of spinach and let cool

Now take your sole filet's and cut them down the middle, there will be a natural split, cut along it, one will be larger than the other. Lay your fish skin side up, there is no skin, however you can the marking of where it once was, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put down a few leafs of wilted spinach, keeping in line with the fillet. Then "spread" on the bluefish/cream cheese mixture, it will be thick, you can make little logs and press them down onto the spinach. Do not make it too thick, remember you are going to be rolling this up, so the filling will add up. From smallest to largest end, roll the fish in a pinwheel and place in buttered oven dish, avoid placing too close and give the fish room to cook. Give them a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish. Now you are ready for the oven, set to 375 degrees, bake covered in tin foil for 10 minutes, uncover and bake for 8-10 minutes more and you ready to eat!

For service you can either top the fish with pesto, or as I did, serve under the sole,, I like the way the pinwheel looks on a plate, so keep on cooking and check back here for more food from my table.

One side note,, if you make extra bluefish/cream cheese mix, it is wonderful on toasted pita or a ritz cracker!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Look what we found!

Summer is over as the Harvest moon has set but tell that to my taste buds. Last night we dined on fresh clams right from our front yard, or in this case, front shore. Now I know most people will have to resort to going to your local fishmonger, but nothing screams summer like a bowl of steaming clams, some broth and if you like...melted butter!
A couple of times a year Jane gets up the gumption to sit in the outgoing tide and sift through the silty home of the Rhode Island clam and every time she does, I reap the rewards. There really is nothing to making good steamers as long as you remember to take the time and care to preparing them for their steam bath. After a good washing and light scrubbing with cold water, put your clams in a bowl, cover with cold water and add 1Tbl salt & a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of corn meal, mix in the clams and put, covered with a wet towel, in the fridge. The clams will "eat" the corn meal and spit it out, along with any sand their have digested recently. We usually repeat this process at least twice over a one day period.
All you have left to do know is steam your clams and dig in. Set up a steamer, you can add aromatics to the water,, herbs, onion, garlic,,anything you like, however I like mine straight, traditional, unadorned. With clams in pot, bring the water to a boil, covered for about 5 minutes, you can give the clams a toss at the halfway point, they are done when they open. If the majority of the clams are open and you have a few that refuse, have no fear and pass those over, if a clam won't open it has good reasons and we should no doubt them.
Place your clams in a bowl, ladle a cup of broth for dripping and rewarming and serve with melted clarified butter, if you choose. The clams we get are often so sweet and succulent I find they need no help, so i forgo the butter, but some people find that part integral to the equation. Whatever you decide you can't go wrong and it could no be easier. We served the clams as an appetizer, along with smoked bluefish spinach stuffed sole, but you are going to have to wait until the next post for that recipe. So until,, eat more clams and let summer live on, share and have fun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken Livers!...the sky is falling

Now if you know anything about my Mother, you know she was no Julia Child, she did however know food. Being a good Jewish gal from Brooklyn she knew a thing or two about the chicken liver.
So shake off your prejudice and dust those glands with flour. They deserve another chance if you have relegated them to something you pass over in the meat department, or better yet from your local chicken herder. They work well straight up, just salt, pepper and some flour, sauteed in butter or oil and served with hot peppers and lemon. Or you can make them Asian with a simple marinade of soy, ginger, sesame and rice wine vinegar.
My favorite is still something of a variation on liver and onions with bacon.
I dust the drained chicken livers with Chimayo red chili, cumin, salt/pepper and garlic powder. Heat a large saute' pan and add butter or oil, both is a nice touch and after dredging the livers with flour pan sear them for 4 minutes a side. When you turn your livers, add one thin sliced vidallia onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic and if you have it, a 1/2 cup of cooked chorizo, (Mexican sausage), you can also use bacon. If using bacon, render the bacon 1/2 way, then add your livers and continue to cook, using the bacon fat to cook the livers, which adds a ton of flavor. When the livers are near done, add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, one diced tomato and a handful of chopped cilantro. The flour and stock will make a rich sauce, for extra artery clogging you can "finish" the dish a pat of butter, it will give the sauce a nice shin and lets face it, butter tastes good.

I usually serve with grit's, (because I am a junky), but mashed sweet potato's, rice,or anything to soak up the goodness will do.
So, throw caution to the wind and enjoy a dish that will make your Mother proud,,well, maybe not your Mother, but mine with be thrilled. Keep cooking and remember to share, it's more fun!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Release the Beet!

The Beet,,,,,,
Much maligned in childhood, well, not mine,, but of lore, right along with brussel sprouts and Popeye's favorite, spinach. Many folks aversion to the beet is their introduction to them. If you have ever tried the lowly "salad bar" beet salad, with its wilted onions and flavorless texture, I understand your horror. Many of us grew up with a canned beet or two on the culinary landscape and likely ducked them like enemy fire. Fast forward to the green conscious, farmers market new world order and you will discover beets have regained their lofty and regal place on the food chart.
How can one resist the dark crimson, burgundy, yellow or orange flesh that hides beneath the tough, coarse skin? Beets make a wonderful addition to salads, bringing color and a vitamin or two. A nice side dish, hot or cold and are very good when given the "salad bar" treatment at home,, try a little mint, white balsamic vinegar, virgin olive oil, red onion, garlic and salt/pepper, toss and chill, serve on baby greens with crumbled blue cheese,,,Sweet Nirvana.
Beets are easy to deal with and just take a little prep to get you on your way to a beet filled day. Buy beets that are firm and preferably have their greens, which sauteed are a great alternative to mustard greens or chard. Cut the stems/greens and rinse the beets in cold water, then in a small pot cover the beets with water, adding a pinch of salt. Bring the beets to a boil, uncovered, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 25-30 minutes. At this point I remove from the heat and go about my day, the beets cook evenly as the cool in the can't really rush the part of the process. You can cook the beets longer and then just shock them in cold water, but I think the outer edges always get overcooked compared to the center, but hey, if your in a hurry,, it does work.
Once the beets have cooled, cut off the ends and cut them however you choose for your needs. Quartered is nice since it makes them look nothing like a canned beet! Peeling is best done before you refrigerate, once cold the skin tends to cling, also I cut them right after peeling as you are already covered in beet juice, which by the way will stain your tuxedo.
So baby don't fear the beet, put it on your plate and in your diet before the season is over..Enjoy and make enough for two...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Macaroni and cheese gets an upgrade

After being bombarded by adverts for Pizzareia Uno and their new "lobster" menu, including Lobster macaroni, I thought I should give this lofty dish my personal touch and perhaps lift what has to be a poor substitute for a great idea and bring it to you.
I know it is summer and the thought of a plate of bubbling, steamy cheese laden pasta might turn even the heartiest of tummies, however I found a relatively cool night a few days ago and thought this would be the chance to give it a run.
Also, trying this now will help to ensure it's coming out perfect the next frost covered day on the calendar. You can substitute any pasta you choose,, I prefer the largest Penne or Rigatoni you can find and in this case, boxed is a better choice than fresh as it holds better under baking and certainly when reheating, that is, if, a big IF, there happen to be any leftovers.
If you have never made Mac N' Cheese from scratch is does require a few simple techniques that if you don't have in your bag of tricks, you should and soon will. You will need to make a Bechamel sauce, one of the "Mother" sauces, for a base in your mac n' cheese. Do not fear as this is easier than is sounds and will come in handy. Your "Mother" sauce will turn into a Mornay sauce with the addition of cheese.
Bechamel is basically a roux, (equal parts flour and butter, cooked for 5 minutes to remove the raw starch flavor), and half and half or milk,, (note, non fat will not do the trick,, this is not a Jenny Craig recipe). Once you have "cooked" your roux, add the milk/ half & half, bring to boil, while stirring and lower heat. At this point you can add the cheese, slowly stirring it in to avoid clumps.
1 Tsp LOBSTER BASE, available at most grocery store




Cook flour and butter together for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning, add lobster base, nutmeg and paprika, Milk or half and half, bring to a boil, again, careful not to burn and shut off. Slowly mix in cheese and basil, season to taste with salt and pepper.
While your waiting for your Mornay sauce to come together you can cook the pasta, drain and cool, keeping your pasta a little al dente', remember it is going to bake.
For the ritz crust, melt the butter and garlic, add ritz crumbs, lemon and S & P

Now that you have all the parts all you need do is assemble. I used a Pyrex dish, (9x6), but anything you have will work and for this dish, the prettier, the better. It is a nice dish to serve whole at the table and let people dig in for themselves. Pour in 1/2 your pasta and half of your sauce, then evenly place lobster in dish, cover with remaining pasta and sauce, loosely top with ritz crackers and bake, covered at 350 degrees for 1/2 an hour, uncover and baked until crust is golden brown, let cool 5 minutes and serve.
You be the judge, i have never been to Pizzareia Uno, but I am guess after this dish you won't feel the need to either...enjoy and make enough for everyone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not quite Refried Beans and other goodies

The staple and mainstay of every Mexican meal for me starts and ends with the beans. When traveling and eating in every Mexican,, not to be confused with tex/mex, establishment I can find, I use to things to test their merit. The first, if they offer it, is a proper and well executed Chile Rellenos,,a Anaheim Chile, roasted and peeled, stuffed with Monetary jack Cheese, battered, fried and served with a rich and dark red Chile sauce. A close second is the re fried bean, simple and tasty this mainstay has filled many a belly and made a full day's hard work possible. Though simple, everyone has their own twist and turn and some work,, some on the other hand,,do not.
I stumbled in to my bean recipe years ago while trying to find ways to make food less fatty and, (even if just slightly), better for you, or me, as the case may be. My re fried beans are not technically re-fried, however I think you won't miss the lard, or pork fat traditionally used to Re-fry beans. They still have the creamy texture we love and covet and all the flavor you crave, demand and have come to expect.
First you need a bag of Pinto beans, I try to buy them from a supplier who "moves" a lot of beans, as they can sit for ever on your commercial or chain grocer's shelf. Pick through the beans, look them over for small rocks which make their way in to the bag now and then. Rinse and soak overnight, but not more than 24 hours,, they will eventually ferment, causing a white foam to form on the water and rendering the beans sour. I usually soak from 12 to 18 hours. After soaking, drain the beans and in a heavy bottom pan, I have a special bean pot I inherited from my Mother, who used it for Cod knows what. You want something that will not scald the beans during the long cooking process.
Heat your pot and roughly chop one Yellow Onion, or Sweet Vadilla, sweat the onion with 3 large cloves of garlic. Once translucent, add 2 Tbl ground Cumin, 3 Tbl Chimayo red chili powder, or any high quality red chili powder found in a Gourmet shop or local bodega, stir in the dry spices and cook for one minute, to mix thoroughly and the cooking brings out flavor. Next, add the beans and cover with water or better yet beef, chicken or vegetable stock, usually takes about a quart of liquid,, but you may need to add more during the cook process. I do not add salt until the end, it tends to make the beans tough. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and lower heat to a strong simmer. Checking and stirring every hour the beans should cook in about two to three hours,, depending on your altitude, age of beans and the luck of the draw. When the beans are fork tender, uncover and cook down the liquid until the beans are a creamy consistency. If you do not want re fried beans, you can drain them and use them for any number of things, add to soups, make a salad, use them as a side dish. But if re fried is your goal, evaporating most of the liquid will do the trick. At this point I salt to taste,, beans will require good amount of salt and quantities will vary depending on your taste and the saltiness of your stock. I finish the beans with a handful of chopped cilantro, which some find optional.
Once you have good beans, you have the building blocks for a great and healthy meal. My beans have now been served with Grilled Sea bass taco's and last night they found their way on to a plate with Annatto marinated bone in Pork chops and a green chilie sauce I made, portioned and froze last year. The beans also freeze well and add a touch of Mexico to any meal. I am sorry I have no pictures, but my photo loading program is on the fritz,, darn PC's,, but a pot of beans is not the most photogenic of food suffs there is, so use your imagination and make the beans your own with any twist you enjoy. Eat up and share!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Peach and Blueberry crisp.....

After yesterday's peach extravaganza I still had enough energy to make Peach and Blueberry crisp. Now I am by no means a baker, with guidance and patience I might make dough boy, but baker is not in the cards, too much science for me. If you fall into this category have no fear, crisps are not really baking. They are pretty forgiving, a quality I admire in a baked good. You can use any fruit you have handy or better yet, is in season, ripe and abundant.

I had not made a crisp myself in years so I looked up a quick recipe and used it as a guideline. Having no oats in the house I found a bag of home made local granola, made by my friend Steve and his partner Claudia, OM HOME GRANOLA, ( It happened to be cinnamon and raisin, which worked perfectly for me, also, because it has been so humid as of late and I had not properly stored said granola, (sealed plastic bag, or a house with air conditioning would have helped), it was a little damp, or let's say less than it's usual crisp delicious self. So I had my oats and like most kitchens I had flour, brown sugar and butter. The nice thing about the crisp is that you can make the recipe your own with any number of small changes or additives. Add crystallized ginger to the fruit, use orange or watermelon juice to marinate the fruit in, add mint,, really the possibilities are endless.

Here are some basic guidelines,, the rest is up to you and your tastes, as with all things food, have fun and share!

Peach and Blueberry crisp
2 cups of fruit...(in my case, 1 1/2 cup peaches
1/2 cup blueberries)

2 TBS lemon juice

1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 cup of Oats..(or crumbled Granola)
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar

1/3 cup of Flour

1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix fruit with juice, ( add a touch of sugar if you feel the fruit is too tart), put in small baking dish

In separate bowl mix the dry ingredients and add the extract and butter, mix and let sit for ten minutes.
loosely crumble the "crisp" mixture on top of the fruit and bake for 20 to 25 minutes,, let cool,( at least a little), on a rack and serve.

Home made ice cream, blueberry, was my choice for an a accompaniment, but you can pick your own poison,,good luck!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty as a Peach

Well if you have an ounce of sense in your head you have discovered your local Farmers Market. These days you would have to be Bubble Boy not to have stumbled across mass amount's of healthy people glamoring around stands containing the fruits and vegetables of the land you live in. So it will come to no surprise to most of you that Peaches are here, have been for a while and will continue to be for a month or so. Most markets sell them by the pound, or in bag's, (either 1/4 or 1/2 Peck), a quarter Peck is around 12- 15 Peaches depending on the kind and the size, and how many you eat on the way home, a common issue for me, so I get a little extra for the drive.

What in the name of Cod am I going to do with 12-15 peaches that will undoubtedly ripen at exactly the same moment and rot soon afterwards? Freeze them!, Yes it is a little work, but not much compared to the rewards, imagine making a peach pie in the middle of winter using your own Local peaches? Thanksgiving and Christmas spring to mind if you follow those things, need to impress your Mother in-law? peach pie while the snow is falling..try it.

For now lets not focus on when and how you might use the peaches to your advantage, just how to get them to storage.

I brought a large pot of water to boil, with a pinch of salt added and quickly placed/lowered..not dropped, the peaches into the water, counted to ten and carried the pot to the sink, where I gently poured the peaches into a colander. Then replacing them in the pot I covered them with cold water and ice cubes. When you are refilling the pot with water, use your hand to diffuse the force from the faucet, peaches bruise VERY easy, nobody likes to be bruised. Let the peaches

chill in the water for a few minutes before placing on a paper towel, or on a cooling rack in the sink,, my method of choice. If you hit your mark and the fruit is just ripe enough, the skin will literally fall off the peach, but some will require a gentle tug to remove the skin. Next, over a large bowl and with a paring knife cut the peach to the pit in quarters, at the last one, you should be able to "pop" out a section, and once you are in, you're all set. Cut each 1/4 into whatever size slices you like, I shoot for 4 slices out of a 1/4. Once this is done squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon on to the peaches and toss lightly.

Seems like a lot, but you are coming down the home stretch. On the largest sheet pan or plastic cutting board that will fit in your freezer place plastic wrap, or if you have one, a rubber baking mat. If you have not seen these they are great for cookies and any baking needs and they roll up for easy storage, plus very little cleanup, your local culinary store will have them. You just need something to keep the peaches from freezing to the sheet pan, or whatever flat surface you choose to use.

Place the peaches in rows, cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Now all you need do is put the peach slices in a freezer bag, and you have set yourself up for a winter of success, at least in the peach department. You can add them to smoothies, or bake with them, tease, then please your friends with your bounty of fresh fruit from your local farmers market in the middle of a long New England winter. I am making a Blueberry and Peach Crisp with some of my "leftovers" from my afternoon of peach freezing, look for the crisp in the next edition and keep on cooking!

Monday, August 9, 2010

been gone so long I needed a chicken

I have been remiss in my writing as of late, see last posting from yours truly, (dated June of '09). So I feel it is high time to get back on the horse, or in this case, into the kitchen. However during the summer months I try to do as much cooking as I can on the grill, in the relative comfort of my back yard, catching summer breezes and fighting the mosquitoes.

Last night was no exception, with the humidity level spiked at 89% and very little wind, the house was a bit unbearable. I had however planned for this event the day before and made a creamy Potato salad with chives, mint and a light caesar dressing, so I was ahead of the game. Cutting any commercial caesar dressing with an equal amount of mayonnaise and a splash of white balsamic vinegar makes for a nice easy dressing, salt and pepper to taste. Any component you can make a head of time will save you time and energy. There are days when I just "feel" like cooking, so I try to take advantage of those moments and I make things that can be frozen and used later, or something that will get devoured within 48 hours,, less in most cases.

Grilled marinated vegetables from my Farmers Market, ( Coastal Growers' Market, ) would accompany my grilled chicken. Any veggie's you prefer or that your children will eat will suffice, this time of year the market is overflowing with bounty and choice. I marinated with a little left over salad dressing from the back of the refrigerator, this time it happened to be a honey mustard vinaigrette, cut with some Olive Oil and Red Wine vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed garlic cloves. As with all cooking you can use whatever you like best,or happen to have on hand, sometimes just cleaning out the ice box can cause your brain to stumble into some wonderful concoctions. When you do find something you like, especially by accident, try to write down on an index card, or your handy electronic device, a brief description of what you just made. Like me your memory might not be what is once was, for a variety of reasons we will not go in to here.

Now grilling a whole split chicken may seem a little daunting at first, but it is really quite easy if you remember a few things. First you need to lower your grill temperature, something I am remiss to do, but in this case a necessary evil. Lower heat, something hovering around 350-400 degrees will keep your bird from cooking too fast and drying out, it will also lessen the risk of flair ups and a charred bird. You can purchase split bone in chicken from your grocer or ask your local butcher to split a whole chicken for you, providing they are not a 16 old with spikes in their face, purple hair and the attention span of a Nat. Knowing your butcher in this case is a plus. If you feel up to the task , splitting your bird is easy and good practice. I used a 4 # roaster chicken, I find that larger birds can be a little tough. Place your chicken backside down, after patting dry with paper towels, on a cutting board. I keep a separate board for chicken and meats. All cutting boards will absorb flavor and liquids so unless you like your watermelon scented with garlic, a fruit and veggie board are in order. It sounds like a lot of boards, but all culinary stores carry multi packs of inexpensive boards, which can be discarded after prolonged use.
With a sharp and heavy blade, I like the Chinese cleaver, cut into the breast plate and separate the chicken halves with your hands, pressing downward. The back bone will be exposed and can be cut out with a little elbow grease or a good whacking. Of course some folks, mostly those south of the Mason Dixon line find the back bone a coveted possession, so if you hail from there, or just like to get personal with your bird, feel free to leave it in. Pat dry again and rub liberally with salt and black pepper. Your marinade can be anything you like, I went with Adobo sauce from a can of Chipotles, the juice of one lemon and some smoked paprika. Marinate for 3-48 hours, having spent the day doing yard work I opted for the short marinade time of 3 hours.

Place the chicken, bone side down, on the grill and cover, keeping the top on the grill will keep the smoky flavor locked in and let the bird cook at an even temperature. Half an hour at 350 degrees will get your bird close to done, I usually flip the bird to breast side down, crisping the skin and cooking the chicken through. You can also just keep the chicken bone side down and increase the heat to 500 for the last 10 minutes. If you are concerned your chicken is not completely cooked, poke a sharp knife or grill skewer in between the leg and thigh, if the juice runs clear, your all set, blood, or red juice will tell you to continue cooking. As with all meats, resting is an important factor and I stick with 4 minutes a pound, so in this case my bird sit's for 16 minutes or so, covered in the comfort of my kitchen. This also gives me time to grill my vegetables and make a small salad of yellow tomato's and pickled beets,, yes I pickled them and that recipe will follow at a later date, or feel free to email me for it.
All that is left is the plating and a desert decision, which in my case will be a wine berry sorbet Jane made last week with wine berries from the garden, but the choice is yours, so enjoy and keep reading!