Spring: Day 1

If you are living anywhere in the Northeast you are ready for spring and yet as a cruel joke they are predicting an inch of snow today, on the first day of spring.

We are not talking about a lovely little dusting that will “pretty up” the sprouting Daffodils and Forsythia’s and melt real quick with the next day’s warming springtime sunshine.

No we are talking bone-chilling cold, a foot of snow still in my back yard and flowers that may never be seen again.

Now that I have done my daily complaining about the weather…. onto a happier subject: BACON!

I actually met somebody the other day who says she DOESN’T LIKE bacon?!!!  I thought “no way” and “maybe she doesn’t eat it for dietary or religious reasons” and doesn’t want to say that. But after further discussion it seems that she just doesn’t like it. Not crispy nor chewy, not even the salty part. Just not her thing. It’s okay – I won’t hold it against her but this will puzzle me for a long time.

In the mean time all this bacon-talk has me hankering for my favorite sandwich of all time: you guessed it… BLT!

Extra B, Lite mayo please!

Fresh crispy iceberg and toasted white bread are a must. The tomatoes are there hiding under all that bacon!

Fresh crispy iceberg and toasted white bread are a must. Winter tomatoes are sad but they are there – hiding under the pile of bacon!

 

 

Springing Forward

Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.

So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.

Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.

 

If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.

Fresh From The Snow

Anybody who has been stuck in the house this winter with blizzard after snowstorm after blizzard has probably already cooked their way through the entire repertoire of soups, stews and slow cooker meals. I know I have. So last week with a “dusting” of 3-6″ expected and temperatures stuck in single digits, I decided I was tired of “cold weather food” and made some summer food instead. However with the grill drowning in 5 feet of snow out back I had to adapt summer food to indoor cookery.

Pork Spare Ribs, Broccoli slaw and roasted cauliflower ended up on the menu. Easy, fresh and bright – everything that winter is not.

spareribs-slaw-cauliflower

I had about 3 lbs of spare ribs that I brushed with about a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard (option here to add  a Tsp of liquid smoke to the mustard) and then coated with my favorite BBQ spice rub, salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic and store 3-4 hours in the fridge or even overnight, but be sure to bring out and let the meat come up almost to room temperature before cooking. I placed the ribs on a rack on a sheet pan – cranked up my broiler – and cooked each side long enough so that they got brown and caramelized. Next I poured a little bit of apple juice under the rack and closed up the whole thing in foil, a big pouch, but not too tight. The oven got taken off broil and dropped to 300 degrees and the ribs cooked like that for about 1.5 hours. For the last 15-20 minutes I unwrapped the foil pouch and brushed on some BBQ sauce to give the ribs that tangy, saucy glaze and of course served more (warmed) on the side to pour over.

The broccoli slaw was simply a bag of shredded slaw and I added tiny shreds of raw sweet onion and a standard coleslaw dressing to it. Mix this up at least an hour (preferably longer) before serving so it has time to develop flavor and break down the raw veggies a bit.

The Cauliflower was sliced thick, drizzled with just a bit of sunflower oil, (great nutty taste – use olive oil instead if you want) salt and pepper. Roast it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees until tender and starting to brown on the edges.

Enjoy with a cold beer, plenty of napkins and a view of the snow-filled back yard.

 

Convenient Breakfast

In the true spirit of “Cabinet Stew” I managed to pull together a breakfast casserole with things that were just hanging around the freezer and fridge.

Production Notes

Spray your dish first with a non-stick spray.

This is a small dish – About 7″x 10″ – so double the filling and eggs to serve a crowd!

Not noted above but in full-disclosure; I actually used up 4ozs of leftover full-fat sour cream by whisking it into the eggs first and then pouring over the goodies. It made the whole thing that much more luxurious and delicious! (but leave it out if you are dairy- free!)

Some Like It Tangy

I am more of a “vinegar girl” then a “sweet girl” so I like things a little on the “tangy” side whenever possible. I think even traditional dishes like beef stew can use a little “tangy” to them. And of course tomatoes…because I can not resist the combination of beef and tomatoes!

On a rare day of cooking together, my husband expressed his doubts when I pulled out a half-full bottle of Pepperoncini’s from the fridge. But I assured him that the beef stew I had in mind, while not traditional, would be delicious and remind him of a yummy roast beef sandwich with sliced tomatoes and mild “hots.”  (Oops, that is how I like my roast beef sandwiches, not him, but no matter I was sure I would convert him!)

We kept it simple by browning about 2lbs of stew meat in hot fat first with a dusting of flour*, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then after carefully removing the meat – added in a large sliced onion for its turn to get browned a bit. Next in was the cherry tomatoes – whole. When they just burst a bit, everything was added back to the pot. We added only enough low-sodium beef stock to get the liquid level up the “shoulders” of the meat. A healthy couple of dashes of my secret ingredient (A1 Sauce!! ) to step up that beefy flavor.  And then the scary part…. about 8 ounces of sliced Golden Greek Pepperoncini’s. WITH some of the juice too. Let the beef cook till the meat is tender, season liberally to taste, and serve it up – all tangy, beefy and delicious! We just ate it in bowls but it would be delicious on big crusty rolls or over some rice! Guess what? He liked it!

spicy beef stew

tangy beef stew with burst cherry tomatoes!

*leave off the flour coating for Gluten-free!

 

New Year, New Adventures

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I will resolve this year to never leave my readers stranded for over a month again!

I am coming down the home stretch of my graduate degree and with that in hand I hope to settle into a new job, regular hours and some adventurous cooking.

So as I finish up my degree, enter a new year and a new phase in life, here is a bright and easy way to enjoy “winter’s tomatoes.”

winter tomato pizza

This can be put together with items you probably already have in your kitchen.

I happened to have a “tube” of pizza dough on hand that I let hang around in my fridge for just such emergency dinners, but you could easily make your own.

I mixed a small, almost equal, amount of mayonnaise and finely grated Parmesan cheese with a generous pinch of garlic powder and salt/pepper, thinned it with a little olive oil, and used this mix as a spread on top of the dough.

Meanwhile I took the sad, winter cherry tomatoes and brighten them up with dried oregano, salt,pepper, just a tiny pinch of sugar and some splashes of red wine vinegar.

I cooked the pizza on my preheated pizza stone until the crust was all crisp and toasty and the tomatoes were just wrinkling.

Easy, bright, quick and delicious – just as I hope 2015 will be!

longs days, slow cook

open book

I am sorry I have been away for so long! I have been busy. Very Busy. Some may know and some may not, but I am a grad student finishing up my thesis in the next 2 months and I barely have time to breathe never mind cook!

So I am hoping to squeeze in a few things between now and my final thesis deadline in late January but forgive me if I am a little slow about posting. Now as I head into the holidays I am going to have even more things to juggle!

These busy days call for the helping hand of the slow-cooker. There is nothing better than dumping a few things in and hours later having a meal waiting for you. My latest creation was inspired by the cold night and the fact that I happened to have potatoes on hand.

I put scrubbed, chopped to bite size potatoes into the slow-cooker with a couple of tablespoons of butter and 1 smallish-medium onion chopped small. I opened a can of creamed corm and a can of niblet corn and added that. Next a can of low sodium broth, a dash of ground nutmeg, dash of garlic powder and plenty of salt and pepper. I also happened to have a small ham steak in the fridge so that got chopped and added too, but you could leave out for a vegetarian version. I let the whole thing cook on low for 8-10 hours till potatoes were tender. (consult your crock pot directions for times/settings as you may want to do high for a shorter time) At this point I took out my immersion blender and gave the mix a quick couple of pulses just to “thicken it up” with the blended potatoes etc. I added about a cup of half and half, adjusted for salt and pepper and served!

It came out delicious, couldn’t have been easier and sustained me  and my husband for several servings each while I march onward towards my academic goals!

chowder