It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

Nope not Christmas… tomato season!!

This year my “supersonics” just keep on giving and although not quite as big as promised… (I blame that on the gardener not the garden) they are prolific! And the little yellow “pear” tomatoes are happily producing a handful a day at this point!

from the garden

After a while there are only so many BLTs you can eat before you need a chance of pace…

BLT

What? Wait?!!! did I really just write that? I never get tired of a BLT!

But the ugly truth is that when the tomatoes are producing faster than you can make sandwiches, there is only one thing left to do….

MAKE SAUCE!

(or “gravy” as we like to say around Boston.) Here is all you need for a simple sauce…

assembled ingredients

Brown up the meats in a heavy bottom cast enamel pan in some olive oil, turn the heat down a bit and add the finely chopped garlic, dried spices and tomato paste. Let them “bloom” for a couple of minutes and de-glaze the pan with the chopped fresh tomatoes. I like to smooth things out with a tablespoon of sugar and of course don’t forget the salt & pepper. Note that I do coat the pork roast with plenty of salt, pepper and a little bit of onion powder before I brown it to a nice crust on all sides. The sausage is fine as is.

sauce in the making

Sauce in the making!

I like to let the whole thing simmer for at least 4 hours on lowish-medium heat and only serve it when the pork roast is basically fork tender. If you like a smoother sauce, remove the meats for a minute and take an immersion blender to the whole thing until it’s your level of smooth. Also I leave the seeds and skin on my tomatoes but you could easily poach and peel the tomatoes and strain the seeds out if that is your desire.

The finished sauce freezes beautifully and when you take some out around Christmas time it truly will be “the most wonderful time of the year” again!

image

Back Yard Adventures

I recently went on an adventure with my back yard grill.

I made turkey burgers.

A turkey burger hardly seems like an adventure but in my red-meat eating household, a turkey burger is a big adventure!

I looked up a few recipes and decided on a bit of a “Jamaican” influence for the flavor profile. I added in apple sauce to keep it moist, shredded carrot for texture and some unusual spices like nutmeg and ginger.

I used about a 1.25 lbs of regular ground turkey (white meat) and added a small onion which I whizzed up in the food processor till it was basically juice and a 4 0z snack cup of apple sauce plus one med carrot shredded finely. I threw in a beaten egg to hold it together and add even more fat/moisture. The spice blend was a 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg & ginger. 1 tsp of granulated garlic, plenty of ground black pepper and 2 tsp of seasoned salt. I also threw in a few hefty dashes of my favorite smokey hot sauce! The mix was pretty wet/loose but I wanted to keep it gluten-free and not add the usual bread crumbs so instead I added about 3 tb of rice flour, stirring them in 1 tablespoon at a time to carefully judge consistency. I think some chopped fresh cilantro might have been nice but I didn’t have any.

I formed the patties and grilled them on the a well-oiled backyard grill adding some Munster cheese! Ketchup or extra hot sauce is optional!

Health Food

You can read about it here but just so you know…. “Salisbury Steak” is considered “health food!”

And so I made some health food the other night.

First I formed the patties with lots of flavor mixed in and browned them up in a heavy bottom skillet. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Next up the all important mushroom browning. And onions. Don’t forget about the onions!

Finally be sure to deglaze the pan with flavorful liquids. Add back in the patties to warm through (if they have grown cold) and serve.

The recipe

1.25 lbs +/- Ground Beef (I used 80-20 blend)

1/2 Tb Onion Powder

1/2 Tb Garlic Powder

1/2 Tb Penzey’s Prime Rib Seasoning

1/2 Tsp Season Salt

1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper

Mix all of the above and form oval patties ( I made 3) and fry in a heavy bottom pan with a little oil. (use your favorite type) Remove the patties and set aside with a foil cover. Add 1 small onion that has been diced very small and sauté a couple of minutes till soft. Add 1-1/2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used baby Portabellas) and sauté a few minutes till browned.

Deglaze the pan with: (whisk it all together first)

1.5 Cups Water

1/4 Cup Ketchup

2 tb Steak Sauce

1 Packet of Brown Gravy Mix ( low sodium is best)

Turn the heat down and add the patties back in till they are warmed through. Serve with starch and a green vegetable!

 

Hot days, Cold Chicken

Finally I have come around to realize that is crazy to run the oven or stove top indoors when temperatures rise above 85 and the humidity is so thick you can barely lift your arm. Grill it or go out instantly become the only options.

A classic grilled chicken breast never goes out of style.

A fresh grilled corn, tomato, feta and parsley salad along side always makes a nice accessory.

dinner

The nice thing about a meal like this, the chicken can be eaten hot, warm or even cold.

TIP:

If you already are grilling the chicken – make the effort to grill the corn too. Just shuck it and throw it on. Nothing fancy – keep an eye and turn when it’s charred a bit.

Typically I usually take the time to peel back the green leaves, carefully remove the silk, smooth back the green leaves and soak the corn in water for at least 20 minutes, then throw them on the hot grill to steam in their water-soaked jackets. This method is good too but requires more prep and doesn’t allow for the actually charring of the corn.

Pick your corn grilling method according to your time and patience!

Hot Days, Hot Chicken…

…because a hot day in July always seems like the perfect day to roast a chicken in the oven right?

Not really the best idea, but I had a craving! And a hankering for some sage which I grow in a pot in my back yard.

fresh sage from the garden

Ever since I started growing sage I am always looking for ways to incorporate it into lighter, summer-like food. But this day I just needed a really good roasted chicken.

I kept it simple adding only a high quality lemon pepper blend, additional fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. Half a stick of butter always make things juicy and tasty too.

sage-spices and butter

Fresh chopped sage, lemon-pepper blend, sea salt and ground black pepper

I used classic technique and massaged the butter and spices all over and under the skin. Roast at 425 degrees until your meat registers 160 degrees in the thigh and juices run clear. Some people bother to tuck and tie their bird but I didn’t bother this time – just a little bit of foil on the wing tips and drum tips to keep them from burning too much.

perfectly crispy skin!

perfectly crispy skin!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

Investigating an American Classic

Happy 4th of July!

I was reviewing posts from the past that were released on or around the 4th of July and found this little gem from 2010! I investigate an American classic. Deviled ham salad sandwiches. Read on for a laugh!

 

Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals!

So there I was in line at the deli considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising their own homemade cold salads – chicken, tuna and ham. Chicken salad is delicious – in fact I often make it myself. Tuna salad I don’t eat it because I don’t like any fish – but I can appreciate it and often make it for my husband’s lunch. Ham salad – now that is a different story.

Ham salad is right there in the weird deli food category for me. Along with pimento loaf. I have never tried ham salad. I am not sure why. I love, I mean LOVE ham. I would list ham (or really any pork product) in my top 5 fav foods! Why shouldn’t I love ham salad? Is it because it is minced meat? Considering I like bologna sandwiches and I never met a hot dog I didn’t like – this dislike of ham salad can’t be true. I discuss the situation with my husband. He reveals that his mom used to make deviled ham sandwiches.  I immediately quiz him – What was in it? How was it served? Did you like it?  He says it was chopped up cooked ham, mayo, pickle relish and of course a little salt/pepper. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and…He didn’t actually like it!! He tells me that whenever he saw his mother whipping this up – he would slide down to his Aunt Barb’s house to see what was for dinner at her house. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)

“Deviled ham” versus “ham salad”

After reading a few recipes and a bit of history on the web; I have to conclude that ham salad is a basic recipe of chopped or minced cooked ham, mayonnaise, relish, sometimes chopped celery and the chopped hard-boiled egg seems to be a black and white issue. You either like it or you don’t.

What makes “deviled ham salad” deviled? Well Underwood Deviled Ham Spread from B&G Brands is what makes deviled ham deviled! They claim the introduction of this product to America back in 1868. From my research I would say that “deviled ham” whether homemade or canned, contains more spice (read “heat”) in it.

The taste test.

I approached the supermarket with trepidation. What aisle would it be in? (With the canned tuna.) Would the ingredients be filled with many long words and chemical products? (It isn’t – in fact I was amazed at it’s mostly natural ingredients.) There it was in aisle 2, nestled in its paper wrapper, reminiscent of a fine Worcestershire sauce.

I whip up the two versions –  one made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.

I consult eatyourbooks.com only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions of ham salad that I have seen on the web. Of course Underwood offers a recipe online. Theirs seems a bit more like a dip or a spread – calling for cream cheese and pimento and such. I decide to compare apples to apples – I will make both using mayo, relish, salt and pepper. That is how my plain Irish-American husband likes things. That is how his mom made it.

I prepare each version. The cat comes running – not a good sign. I refrigerate them to chill before serving. Not being a huge fan of mayonnaise, both versions scare me. Check out the picture below. I tried to make the photo look appetizing – but you can probably tell which one is which.

The moment of truth.

We both try them. We like them! Not love, but definitely not as scary as I thought. The deviled ham definitely finished with a spicy kick. The plain ham salad texture seemed more appealing. I made both with a little too much mayo. I would suggest: mix either one 4.25 oz can or about a 1/4 lb diced deli ham with 2 tsp of sweet pickle relish and 1 tsp of mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a wetter texture add more mayo.Chill and serve on white sandwich bread with crisp cold lettuce.

 


 

“Chick-N-Sketti”

So far this summer in New England it seems to be nice on Saturdays and rainy on Sundays. And since my day off is Saturday I am not complaining.

But rainy Sundays call for casseroles and slow-cookers and things that warm you up on a day not fit for man or beast!

This casserole is adapted from a recipe by the red-headed lady who lives on a cattle ranch and cooks on TV. You know the one, she considers herself a “pioneer.”

Behold my version of “chicken and spaghetti” ( get it “chick-n-sketti) casserole!

This dish is great as a make ahead for a pot-luck, freezes beautifully and leftovers can be portioned out for lunches!

The Recipe

1.25-1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

12 cups water (or enough water to cover and freely boil the chicken/pasta in your pot)

1 low sodium chicken bouillon cube

couple dashes of poultry seasoning ( I like “Bells”)

1/2 med white onion cut into fine dice

1 large green bell pepper cut into fine dice ( I used 2 medium size ‘cubanelles’ cause that is what I had)

1 40z jar diced pimentos, drained.

1 can ( 10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup

1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup

1 12oz box of spaghetti (broken up into small, aprox 1″ -2″ long pieces)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese ( separated into 2 cups)

1-2 tsp seasoned salt

1-2 tsp garlic powder

dashes of hot sauce to taste ( I like frank!)

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup of the water/broth reserved from cooking chicken/pasta ( may use less – depends on thickness of soup*)

Combine the water, bouillon, poultry seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add chicken and boil for 5 minutes, turn down heat to simmer and cover and cook 20 -25 mins more. Remove chicken and set aside to be shredded. Add pasta to same broth/water and cook till just al dente – don’t overcook. Cook about 2-3 mins under package recommendations for al dente. Remove pasta and retain at least a cup of the cooking broth/water. Lightly saute the onions in a tablespoon of butteror oil till they are just soft and a little golden. Combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, sauteed onions, diced peppers and pimentos, soups, broth/water*, seasoned salt, garlic powder, peppers, hot sauce and 1 cup of the cheddar till mixed and turn into a sprayed  baking dish. You will need at least a 2 quart size. You can taste for seasoning at this point because your ingredients/chicken should be fully cooked. Adjust as needed. (more salt, more hot sauce etc) Sprinkle the other cup of cheese on top and bake uncovered in a 350 degree preheated oven for 35-40 mins until cheese is brown and bubbly on top.

*use enough of the cooking water/broth to get the mix creamy but not too liquid. However the baking in the oven will help dry/thicken up things up -so err on the side of creamy rather than too “tight’

Full disclosure… I used Gluten Free Pasta and Gluten free canned soup…. shhh don’t tell the hubby!