A lot Like Matt

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Matt? As in “Fat Matt?”

No really that is his real name!

Well I had the pleasure some years back of going to see him in his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. Yup some of the finest BBQ you will ever experience. None other than “Fat Matt’s Rib Shack!”

While I can’t imagine be able to replicate BBQ anywhere near what they do so well down there, I do try on occasion to make an old-fashioned plate of BBQ.

served

Serve it like Matt does with slaw, white bread and pickles but this could easily be on a bun or over rice and beans!

While they didn’t ask me or pay me to talk nice about them – if anybody out there wants to send some of their food my way – email me and we can make it happen!

In the meantime I can’t emphasis how easy it is to make some more than acceptable BBQ at home. With your slowcooker. Yup no grill and no smoker needed, just the slow cooker.

The secret to sucess is that you purchase a high quality jar of sauce – preferably one with a “smoky” flavor built-in. I simply pour a jar of sauce over a small roast (usually 3lbs+/- for me) into my relatively small slow cooker, cover and cook on high for at least 4-6 hours. If you are feeding a crowd or want lots of leftovers (freezes well!) you can double the meat and use two jars of sauce. You don’t need to add anything else unless you want to.

So if you can’t get down to Atlanta, this could be an easy alternative!

 

Gift Basket Clean-Out

 
 
This marmalade  Plus This  the main players 
 
Equals  ↓dinner

Whenever you get those gift baskets at the office or home, all the good stuff is immediately eaten. (cookies, crackers, nuts and candy) But the little hotel size jars of jelly and marmalade always seem to get left behind. Maybe because making toast at the office just isn’t an option! I like to use them to make a sauce or glaze.

I grabbed a few things from the cupboards to mix in and you can basically take any direction…I went a little Asian with my last one. Soy Sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, Chinese 5-spice and ground ginger powder (not shown) and some crushed dried rosemary… just because. Unfortunately a sesame allergy prevents me from using any type of sesame oil but that would be just perfect to add to this sauce for a distinct Asian flare.

The Recipe

6 oz orange marmalade

1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

2 tbsp low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce

2 tsp ground ginger powder

2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder (divided)

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp chili flakes

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1″ pieces

1/4-1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp oil of choice for saute

1 1/2 cups +/- diced onion

Whisk the top 8 ingredients using just 1 tsp of the Chinese 5-spice powder. Coat the chicken pieces  in the remaining teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and salt/pepper to taste. Sauté the chicken and onion in the oil on med-high heat till each side has a bit of brown. Add the sauce and cover for a few minutes to let the chicken cook thru. Remove cover and add peas and let sauce reduce for a few minutes more. Serve over rice.

Devils on Horseback

There are many obscure food nicknames/references in the world but with advent of the internet most of the time the origins of these can be tracked down. Not as easy with “devils on horseback.”  Or “angels on horseback.”

Google it and you will find some stories about English pub snacks and horseback warriors wielding meat-covered shields. However these snacks got invented and why they have this name, I may never really know. But in the meantime I shall just make and eat dozens of them.

I can’t take credit for inventing this. I first heard about these from a friend and colleague at work . We carpool once a week and torture ourselves discussing food all the way home, hungry for dinner after the work day!

She had the pleasure of eating at the Chicago restaurant, “Avec that invented these.  As she described them to me,  I knew immediately that I would need to make these.

My variation of "devils on horse back"

My variation of “devils on horse back” – dates split and stuffed with a lardon of smoked Spanish Chorizo and wrapped in bacon. Smothered in a smoky tomato and red pepper sauce.


Production Notes

The rolled, stuffed dates bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-30 mins.

You can double roll them with bacon and if you do you may want to bake them on their end so all sides get a little crispy.

These could also be made with raw, uncooked Chorizo – just make sure to cook them long enough that they are done. Use a thermometer if need be to test for temperature.

The sauce is basically finely minced onion and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil, add a 7 ounce jar of roasted peppers diced up, a 15 ounce of diced tomatoes, some garlic powder, ground cumin and smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes on med-low. Taste for seasoning and add salt/pepper and a tiny bit of Agave to smooth it out. This makes plenty of sauce for the approximately 36 dates I made.

January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

Dinner For Dinner

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that my husband and I share a common love of “dinner for breakfast.”

But lots of times we just have “dinner for dinner” and this basic pot roast is one of his favorites. (mine too!) Simple and tasty – this can be made in one pot and put into a slow oven until you are ready to eat and if you are using one of those heavy cast iron dutch ovens like I do, it will stay hot for a long time in case you have family or friends wandering thru at different times to be fed.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips to really help make the dish shine.

1. Add lots of seasoning to the meat and make sure to brown it. I really think being generous with your spices and seasoning sets up the meat for not only a flavorful crust but tasty “au jus.”

2.Sauté those carrots. Take the time to really cook those carrots a bit along with the onions – it makes a difference!

carrots and onions

For the record… this picture was taken as soon as I threw in the carrots, so they were still raw, but they did get a nice saute in the pan!

3. Potatoes on the side please!

I used to put the potatoes right in with the roast but they were never as good as I wanted them to be, so when a TV cook from Oklahoma once suggested serving the pot roast on a mound of yummy, rich mashed potatoes, I have been doing it that way ever since! (plus this gives opportunity for extra flavor – like “garlic mashed potatoes!”)

dinner plate
My husband made these delicious mashed potatoes!

Production Notes

My basic spice blend for the meat contains sea salt, course ground black pepper, garlic powder and celery seed. In addition to this I can change the flavor profile depending on what else I add. For example…ground cumin, paprika and a tiny bit of cinnamon for an “exotic” pot roast. Or  crushed red pepper flakes for a “spicy” version.  Let your imagination run wild.

My basic “go to” for liquid is water mixed with a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce to de-glaze the pan and become the cooking liquid for the pot roast meat and veggies. But you can use stock, cider, beer or wine too. Each of this will add/change the flavor profile.

I usually add a small can of tomato paste (or a couple squirts from the tube) to the pan after I have browned the meat and veggies but before I de-glaze to add a real depth of flavor to the pot roast liquid and because I love tomatoes!

If you want a thicker consistency for the “Au Jus” than add a tiny bit of cornstarch or an arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving.

Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

The Last Potato

I have made my last batch of mashed potatoes. Ever. By request of my husband.

Yes it is true, and while many of the dishes that come out of my kitchen are delicious and get rave reviews, my mashed potatoes are not one of them. I can’t seem to get the hang of them. I can’t even make instant mashed potatoes properly! Even when I follow the box directions precisely, something is not quite right. No matter how much butter or cream or anything, there is something wrong. Sometimes it’s the texture and sometimes it’s the flavor.

The problem

First off I HATE peeling potatoes and that was the probably the final straw on this last go round.  Secondly I don’t like getting out the big pot and waiting forever for the water to come to boil. After all that, inevitably, I pull the boiled potatoes out either over-cooked or undercooked. Sometimes, in total laziness, I oven-bake the potatoes instead of boiling them to get them cooked. Than they get mashed, peels included. The peels hold all the nutrients, right? (At least I dig out all the little “eyes” on the potatoes first!)

This last (and final) round of mashed potato was used in a perfectly delicious Shepard’s Pie. But the un-peeled mashed potatoes didn’t go over so well. Or perhaps it was the carrots that I adventurous-ly included. Maybe I will never know. But the hubby has instructed me to leave the potato-making to him. He is after all a Boston Irish guy and if that doesn’t qualify him to know his potatoes, I don’t know what would!

Leftover Soup

"Everybody in the pool!"

“Everybody in the pool!”

Like most folks I had more food than people at my Christmas table, so that presents lots of leftover opportunities. And like most folks, soup was the perfect thing to throw some of the items into and create a whole new meal.

Leftover baked ham got sliced into bite size pieces. A random potato or two rolling around the crisper drawer was diced small. There is always an onion available in my kitchen. A can of beans and the extra kale from the salad made the “nutritious factor” sky-high.

Method

Saute the diced potato, onion and ham in a little butter (or fat of choice) and once they start to soften, add some smoked hot paprika, a dash of grated nutmeg and some red chili flakes. Now add a box of stock and another box’s worth of water. (Adjust the liquids based on your amount of leftovers and how hardy you want the soup.) Simmer for about 20 mins and add a small can of beans.(Rinsed and drained first.) I like to add my kale at the end and simmer about 10-15 mins more but if you want your kale cooked even more, than go longer.

I served it in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Some shaved Parmesan would have been good too!

hot soup 2

A “Green” Christmas

Veggies not money!

Holiday dinners like Christmas can be so full of heavy, rich dishes that I decided to take a really “light” approach with the salad course. Just fresh shaved greens – 3 kinds, all raw and lots of them! Plus some fresh grated raw turnip for a sweet-spicy crunch and some dried cranberries for a little color and sweetness.

Green Number one….

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts.

Green number two plus some orange…

sliced celery and shredded raw turnip

Sliced raw celery and shredded raw turnip – Celery is like “beginners fennel”

Green Number three…

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my cusinart

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my Cuisinart – I used “Curly kale” and took out the stems first!

All together now…

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

Dress this with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh start to a holiday feast!

Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

Put The Lime In The Coconut

piece The combination of rich coconut and bright citrus-y lime is undeniable and one of my favorites! And it couldn’t be simpler than here in this “impossibly easy pie!”

It is not my first time making this pie – in fact if you have been reading along you might have seen this same pie (really more of a custard) without the lime and decked out for the holidays in a berry sauce.

But this time around I was craving lime (Thanks Lydia for that!) and I had all the ingredients on hand to make this.

The original recipe can be found here and the only change I made was to omit the vanilla and mix in 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice along with the zest of two limes. (1 in the mix and 1 on top to garnish)

It definitely cured the craving, but the lime is subtle – it you want more lime flavor you have to change the alchemy of recipe – something I am not good with. But feel free to report back with new ratios!

Trust me this won't hang around the house very long!

Trust me this won’t hang around the house very long!

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Carol’s Kielbasa Dinner

Maybe it’s the fall nip in the air here in New England. Maybe it was the fact that I had the ingredients hanging around the refrigerator. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to serve one of my many mustard selections I keep on hand. Whatever the reason…I found myself putting together a “kielbasa roast” for dinner one night.

Serve informally and rustic on a Dinner for two served on a rustic wood tray and whole gran mustard. Don't forget a great dark beer!
Served informally and rustic as a dinner for two on a wood tray with whole grain mustard. What could be more romantic than sharing/dipping chucks of meat and veggies! Don’t forget a great dark beer to go along.
This can also serve as party food – served barely warm or even room temperature – guests can grab and dip.

This simple dinner came together easily. I spread rough cut potatoes and chunks of raw onion on a sprayed foil-lined sheet pan. I used a little bit of olive oil to lightly coat everything and sprinkled my favorite all purpose roasting spice blend liberally on top. My choice of spice blend is something called “Northwoods Seasoning” from Penzeys, but you could use your favorite blend or even just a simple mix of seasoned salt, black pepper and ground cumin. Into a preheated hot 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes and then a quick toss and flip. Back into the oven for about 10 more minutes. Add the sliced kielbasa and green veggie of choice, cook another 10 minutes or so. Feel free to toss and moisten everything with a little more olive oil if needed along the way. But remember that the fatty meat will release some of its fat and flavor as it cooks.

Technique Notes:  The kielbasa is a fully cooked product so I am simply getting some color and flavor on it here. I cut my pieces about 1/2″ thick. Trying to keep a uniform cooking time. But I did give the potatoes and onions a head start as the potatoes need longer and the onions develop into a “caramelized” deliciousness. I choose a frozen Italian green beans because that is what I had hanging around in my freezer but I think florets of broccoli would be delicious here! Use your judgement with cooking time to get the level of brown crispness that you are looking for.

roasting sheet

On the roasting sheet – keep a close eye on things so they don’t overcook and be sure to toss and turn a few times. ( keep it “light’ if you must with a great quality turkey kielbasa)

Gordon, Are You Reading This?

Anybody who might have read my early (as in first) post will know that I am a big “Gordon Elliott” fan from way back. His long-time-ago show “door knock dinners” was a favorite of mine! This is the one where he surprised folks by knocking on their door and making dinner out of whatever was on hand. Kinda like “cabinet stew!”

If you are not familiar with Gordon – all you need to know is that he is the genius producer behind many famous cooking or cooking-related shows. Most recently his daytime series “The Chew.” I am an avid fan of this show which started airing in September 2011 – a full year after I started my blog in May 2010. Sometimes I watch it and comment to my husband “hey I just made that not too long ago” and think what a coincidence! Of course if it something common like burgers – which everybody makes all of the time, than it is bound to come up. But if the coincidence is something a little more unusual like perhaps Swedish Meatballs or American Chop Suey – than I have to wonder….”Gordon, are you reading my blog?”

Okay before you think I am a narcissist maniac, lets just consider the possibilities. (After all in this “get a record deal from a YouTube video sensation” world we live in – anything is possible!) Since I linked to Gordon’s production site back in May 2010 – it is entirely possible that his IT guys informed him of the link back to him, and he has been reading along with other my other approximately 70 other regular readers ever since. (A girl can dream can’t she?)

Well if you are reading this Gordon – let the record show that the street goes both ways. Here is an adaptation of something I just saw on the show recently – Chef Michael Symon cooking eggs inside an avocado half. His were a little undercooked as he was doing a “five in five segment” and he used the whole avocado half. I think my changes to this recipe were a good idea. See what you think…

Slice thin and make a big hole!

sliced avocados

In retrospect I would have made the avocado slices with the hole even thinner to allow the egg to cook easier. It really depends on your preference of egg – I like my yolks not too runny – so longer cook time for me.

eggs cooking in avocado

Standard “eggs in a hole cookery” – but use a cover to help them cook through.

final dish

Served on a bed of hash browns laced with chopped cooked bacon. (bacon optional for you vegetarians) Topped with a quick warm “salsa” of cherry tomatoes, basil and onion and sprinkled with Feta cheese.

P.S. I also noticed that not long after I discovered “www.foodimentary.com” which lists all the weird “food holidays” (like “national chocolate cupcake day”) the show started talking about them too. Coincidence? I think not!

Fall Pairings

There are many fall food pairings that go together so well.

A few that come to mind.. apple pie and ice cream, sweet potato and apples, pumpkins and apples…. oh wait…everything goes great with apples!

One of my fall favorites is sage and apples!

I started growing sage in a backyard pot a few years ago and I have really discovered the power of fresh sage! You can see some of my other sage pairings here, and here!

After apple picking the other day, I could think of nothing better than a nice fall dinner of roasted chicken with sautéed apples and sage! I threw in some small diced red onions to perk things up and of course I sautéed in everything in butter for the full “fall weather cooking” effect!

saute pan

I seared the chicken in a hot pan first and then after setting the chicken aside, I added the veggies for the saute. Next the chicken went back in and a little apple cider to deglaze the pan. I put the whole thing into a hot oven with a cover for 20-30 mins until the chicken was cooked through. (I uncovered the pan for the last 10 mins or so to re-crisp the chicken skin.)

The apples and onions melt down to a wonderful “savory” apple sauce and a couple of fried,whole, sage leaves added an artistic garnish. Serve with brown rice and crisp green salad.

 Fall on a plate!

Hmmm... where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Hmmm… where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Steak Tips: What Are They Anyway?

You know that old question…”what would you have for your last supper?” Well mine would most certainly involve steak and tomatoes of some variety! And around New England many a folk might say “steak tips!”

It is high time we discussed this regional favorite!

What are these anyway? No one seems to really know – not even Google! In this internet age of over a million hits on any given subject, I seem to have discovered one of the last mysteries remaining on the internet. (at least culinarily)

I can tell you that they are strips of beef sold universally around New England. Most folks cut them into chunks about 2″ x 2″ for portioning and cooking. They are not the west coast “tri-tip” and they are not “flank steak” or “hanger steak” or “flat Iron” steak” – as best I can determine – they are the “tips” cut from a sirloin.

Here is an entertaining and somewhat informative discussion about what steak tips are from Chowhound.

Here is the link to Ask.com

When New Englanders move to other parts, they are  known to have friends and relatives fly down with their carry-on luggage full of steak tips to satisfy their  hankering of a taste of home! (true stories)

Of course everyone has a marinade they swear by…some use a bottled salad dressing, some use a packet, some invent their own. Terriyaki style tips are very popular too. I usually just take the opportunity to use up the last bits of any vinegar-based salad dressing I might have hanging around. Or if I am making my own marinade it always involves some “Montreal steak seasoning” blend. Whatever your secret blend, no tailgate or family gathering in the summer (or anytime of the year) is complete without “tips on da grill” (typed with Massachusetts accent of course)

They are a standard on restaurant menus as well and local places have legendary followings based on their tips. Like this local joint. (And no they didn’t reimburse me for any promo consideration – but if they are reading and want give me a free dinner – I wouldn’t say no!)

Well whatever they are, I am glad I live in New England so I can eat them….

steaktips and salad
I love me a good salad,  but don’t overlook that pile of tips back there!
If anybody out there – butchers, chefs, cooks alike can enlighten me -please do so at: cabinetstewATyahooDOTcom!

Tomato Problem

Have you ever noticed how many posts I do that involve tomatoes? ( 75 so far) Specifically have you  read all 6 of my previous posts professing my love for tomatoes? (and some great recipes featuring tomatoes)

I might have a problem. A tomato problem. But the problem isn’t that I try to eat a tomato or tomato product at least once a day, and it isn’t because I grow enough tomato plants each summer in the garden to produce for a small army. (unless of course it rains or is a heat wave all summer like this one)

The actual problem is coming up with a catchy blog topic to disguise the fact that I am posting my 76th entry featuring tomatoes….

ahhh... never a more beautiful sight than tomatoes and basil!

ahhh… never a more beautiful sight than tomatoes and basil!

This meal couldn’t have been easier. I just tossed the cubed, fresh tomatoes and torn basil leaves with a little oil, red wine vinegar and S&P. Than I grilled up a medley of chicken pieces and chunks of veggies all coated and seasoned too. (kinda like a kabob without the stick) When it all comes off the grill, just toss it into the bowl on top of everything and watch the hot stuff warm the tomato juices and release the basil fragrance! Yum!

Serve warm as is, or over rice or pasta.

Whatever you do, this is an easy “one bowl” dinner that is sure to impress the tomato-lovers in your life!

tossing in grilled veggies and chicken

Cobbled Again

Is there any easier dessert than taking whatever fruit you have on hand…

… adding some brown sugar, cinnamon and butter on top

…adding some biscuit mix on top…

…and baking until the top looks delicious and the fruit is just plain oozing goodness?

The hardest part is waiting for it to cool a bit so you don’t burn your mouth!

have a piece

Peach-Raspberry “cobbler”

Production Notes

I used my favorite gluten free mix from Betty and just added brown sugar, pinch of salt and ground cinnamon to the fruit with some pats of butter. Bake at 375 degrees until delicious and you can’t stand the smell anymore! P.S. I did spray the baking dish with cooking spray first.

Level 3

Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!

level 3

Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4″ should I come across it some day!

First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.

Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.

Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.

But wait!

The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

The Sauce:

1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion

1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions

2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste

1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)

1 tsp toasted sesame oil*

2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)

1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.

Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.

This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!

*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.

Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.

Summer “Boats”

peppers stuffed

This is my kind of “boat!” This lighter, summer version of stuffed peppers was inspired by the quinoa I had hanging around my pantry waiting to be cooked. (use your rice cooker!) I added in seasoned cooked lima beans to give it some texture. ( I love them!) But the real flavor boost comes from the herbaceous mixture that I started with. (Fresh herbs from my garden!)

herbs 1 I chopped them up and combined them with some finely diced, sautéed onion and garlic and dried “Herb de Provence.” flavor base

 

 

 

 

I also added in the extra bits of the peppers themselves.

And of course everything is better with a little cheese on top, so after baking in the oven for 35 mins or so covered, I added handfuls of cheese on top and bake uncovered for 10 mins more.

with cheese on top

The Recipe:

1/2 large onion diced

1/2 each sweet red & green bell pepper diced (or just the extra bits from trimming the peppers)

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tb of butter or oil for saute

1 tb dried “Herb de Provence” mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup mixed fresh herbs, minced finely: I used basil, sage and parsley

2 cups seasoned, cooked quinoa

1 cup +/- seasoned, cooked lima beans

2 large peppers, cut in half, seeded and stemmed

1 1/2 cups +/- shredded cheese of choice

Saute the top 6 ingredients together until onions are soft and slightly colored. Take off the heat, let cool a bit and mix in the fresh herbs mix. Mix in the quinoa and beans.

Stuff the pepper halves in an oven proof dish. Add an inch of hot water to the dish around the peppers, trying not to get any water splashed into/onto the peppers. Bake covered* in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 mins. Remove the cover, top with cheese and bake another 10 mins or until cheese is melted.

*Just a note: I covered the dish loosely, with foil and the peppers steamed nicely and the water evaporates, if you cover tightly with a lid – you may be able to reduce cooking time but may have water leftover.

(makes enough to stuff about 6-8 pepper halves, depending on the size.)

Yet Another Post About Grilling

Yep it’s grilling season here in New England and yes that means an endless stream of posts about my grilling adventures! Click away if you need to, I will understand and see you back in the fall!

In the meantime I want to show you one of my favorite grill toys……The “grill basket”basket of veggies

It looks kind of like a fry basket and maybe it could serve double-duty as one. But what I like about this contraption is how I can toss and turn lots of little things or at least little cut-up things over the grill.

In this case I had smallish white mushrooms and small white pearl onions. (Pearl onions aren’t just for thanksgiving!)

Having a basket of veggies all cooking alongside your primary meat makes things easy..Just turn out onto a platter and serve!

Marinated steak tips with grilled mushrooms and onions. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs and sliced tomatoes before serving.

Marinated steak tips with grilled mushrooms and onions.
Garnish with fresh chopped herbs and sliced tomatoes before serving.

Rubies and Pearls

’round these parts if you mention “pearls” in the context of food, you might be referring to a brand of giant size hot dogs made right here in Massachusetts.

But in this case I am actually referring to “pearl onions” and of course my “rubies” are the little red new potatoes. Both of these went along side a large pork roast that I thought would be fun to cook on a random rainy, overcast Thursday. ( too lazy to pick up something more appropriately sized for 2 people, so out of the freezer came this piece of meat – guess we will be eating leftovers for a while!)

rubies and pearls            ready for the oven

I didn’t bother tying the roast and making it look pretty for presentation, I just seared it in a hot skillet and transferred it to the sheet pan.I did the same with my “rubies and pearls” – I got a little color on them (and coated them with a little oil/fat/seasoning by doing this) before putting them alongside the roast on the sheet pan. I threw a couple garlic cloves on too for fun.

dinner

hmm… where did that green veggie go anyway?

Everything went into a hot (400 degrees) oven for 20 mins a lb. If you think the veggies are getting overdone before the roast is finished just scoop them out and keep them warm somewhere till time to serve. serve with a pan sauce made from the drippings of the pan you seared it in and a little apple juice. Also great to serve a little apple sauce and a green veggie on the side!

Production notes

I brined the roast during the day in “seasoned salt” water with coriander seed and bay leaf. Then I rinsed and dried it before coating very liberally with ground cumin and some black pepper.

Arroz con carne de cerdo

Rice with pork.

Not an expert here by any means – in fact had to look this title up – so hopefully we can trust the internet on this translation!

Anyway, that is what I made the other day. Some “spanish style rice” and some grilled pork chops to go along with it. A true “Arroz con carne de cerdo” or its cousin “Arroz con pollo” (chicken) would have the meat browned and finished with the rice. My variation was separate items, but still very yummy if I say so myself!

arroz con pork

I started with butter, onion, diced sweet red pepper and garlic in a pan. I added the dry rice to the pan after things were browned up nicely to toast it a bit. I also threw in my dry spices at this point to also “toast” them a bit. Adobo seasoning, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder and ground annatto seed along with black pepper. A few mins after that, the liquids went in. I used both stock and a small can of tomato sauce. Simmer covered for 35-40 mins or until the rice is cooked and the liquid evaporated. Add some frozen peas in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Before serving, taste for seasoning. (you may want to add more salt or a bit of hot sauce)
As for measurements… just use your basic 2:1 ratio of dry rice to liquid and just sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of each seasoning depending on how much rice you are cooking.
Shhhhhhh.. I used healthy whole grain brown rice since the color was going to be hidden from my husband anyway!

Squash Salad

We’re not talking roasted and we’re not talking about zucchini.

We are talking about raw butternut squash.

Yep – raw.

And no, I have not converted to an all raw, vegan diet. Thanks to Lydia I was inspired to just simply try something new. And I like to make new and interesting things for my mom, who does happen to enjoy eating very healthy.

I decided to make a salad rather than a “slaw” as Lydia did based on the fact that the spinach in the store looked really good. I added walnuts because they were already in the house. I kept my salad simple for mom but the addition of your favorite crumbly cheese would put it over the top I think. The real star here was the dressing which I modified a bit from Lydia’s.

Don’t knock the raw squash until you try it. Even my red-meat loving, Irish-American guy appeared to eat some. I served it as part of a Mother’s day brunch with french toast and watermelon at the world’s most beautiful dining room.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.


Production Notes:

The dressing is adapted from Lydia’s recipe because my mom likes things a little sweeter.

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

The Sunflower Surprise

Lately I have been experimenting with oils other than olive. There is quite a lot out there when you really look.

I had been using walnut oil for my salad dressings but I found it to be fairly neutral in taste and kinda “oily.” I know that is weird because it IS oil but it was just not the same as olive oil.

Pumpkin seed oil is nice but very expensive.

So the other day I noticed “sunflower oil” on the shelf. Organic and “first cold pressed” no less. And a fairly reasonable price. So I bought it and tried it. To my surprise it was quite good. It has a distinct nutty flavor (obviously of sunflower seeds) and a great thick texture to it. It is like warm and cozy version of extra virgin olive oil. It doesn’t have the sometimes bitter, green taste that is prized in olive oils.

Although the label suggests to only use it for salad dressings and drizzles (which I will definitely do) I decided to use for roasting my veggies. Kinda like when people use EVOO for roasting and cooking even though it is meant to be used in dressings and drizzles.

So what veggie would I try this on?

Well, there has been a lot of conversation flying around the blogs about cauliflower lately – apparently some folks love it and some don’t. You know who you are ;-)

Well I love it and when I found this fresh beauty at the store recently, I knew I had to have it.

beautiful cauliflower

So I cut it up and tossed it with my new sunflower oil, salt, pepper and a little dried rosemary. And some carrots.

add a little oil and seasoning

Into a hot 400 degree oven until they were toasty and delicious!

roasted veggie goodness

Enjoyed on its own or as a tasty side dish to something else – these veggies were delicious wrapped in a subtle perfume of toasted sunflower seeds and rosemary.

Jumping On The Bandwagon!

or maybe I should say…Jumping on the “meatwagon!”

FAIR WARNING: Vegetarians you may want to avert your eyes now!

I finally decided to tackle beef short ribs. The universe seemed to be calling to me to cook them, as I kept seeing them being prepared on TV and on blogs lately.

They always seemed so fancy and maybe just a tad bit hard to cook but I am here to announce – they are delicious and easy, I don’t know why I waited so long!

Behold the lovely subject….(cue “angel music”)

meat

I broke out the “special occasion” bacon fat and got these beauties browning in a hot pan.

browning the meat

Next up was the “mire poix” of veggies. (celery, onion, carrots) Don’t judge me -I used shredded carrots!

the mirepoix

Now it was time to put the meat back in for its long slow braise!

adding the meatback in

Two and half hours later, I took an immersion blender to the pot of yummy goodness and behold…

A life changing meal…

Braised beef short ribs with roasted cauliflower and carrots

Braised beef short ribs with roasted cauliflower and carrots

The Recipe

I was cooking for two but still ended up with more than enough sauce, you could double the meat and not anything else and still have enough sauce for 4.

2lbs +/- (4 ribs) Beef short ribs, bone in

Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp bacon fat or fat of choice that can withstand high heat.

1 cup each, finely diced onion, carrot, celery

2-3 cloves garlic finely minced

1 dried bay leaf

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cumin

3-4 springs of fresh thyme

1 can ( 6oz) tomato paste

1 cup unsweetened apple juice

1-2 cups of water

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Coat the ribs in salt/pepper and brown patiently on each side in the hot fat. Remove meat, set aside and turn heat down. Add onions, celery and carrots to pan and cook down for a few mins. Add the garlic and cook a few mins more. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add the dried spices and the fresh thyme. Add the tomato paste. Stir and kinda “toast” everything for a few minutes. De-glaze pan with the apple juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add the meat back in – nestle it among the liquid and veggies. Add enough water until liquid and veggies are about a 1/4″ under the top level of meat. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven ( preheated) for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Remove the meat carefully and set aside for a few minutes, while you discard the thyme springs. Use an immersion blender to blend the remaining liquid and veggies into a thick sauce. Add a little hot water if it needs to be thinned. If you don’t have an immersion blender (why not?!) transfer the pan contents to a blender and carefully blend. Meat can be added back into the pan/sauce and kept warm or reheated after coo0ling and storing.

Too Much Quinoa!

“Wait! There can never be too much quinoa!”  That was just what you were thinking, right?

Well I love this new darling of the culinary world as much as the next person, but sometimes you just get tired of eating the same leftovers again and again – even if it is a super food!

It started out innocently enough with plans for a quinoa salad that I could munch on for a couple of days this week. I got my rice cooker out because that is how I cook my quinoa – it’s perfect every time.

I also had some leftover carrot and celery sticks, and some extra fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes in the fridge.

So I started a mirepoix:

mire poix

When the veggies were softened, off  the heat, I added: a pint of split cherry tomatoes, 2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, 1  jar of capers, (3.5oz -drained) 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley, the juice and zest of 1 large lemon and 1 tablespoon of Herb de Provence seasoning.

Looks good just as it is right?

delicious on it's own!

I mean personally I could stop right there and eat this by the spoonful. Or on toasted bread or mixed with pasta. Or with a can of white beans. Which is exactly what I added because I thought that might really give some “heft” to this salad. Again, at this point with the beans added, you had a complete meal all done. You could just stop there.

But I decided it would be terrific with my cooked and cooled quinoa.

All 6+ cups of it!!!

Why 6 cups??   Because as I was pouring out a dry cup of uncooked quinoa, I thought.. “why don’t I double it because it is great to have in the fridge to throw in stuff. Right?” So two cups of dry quinoa went into the rice cooker with 4 cups of water. Math not really being my strong point, I didn’t think about the fact that this would yield at least 6 cups of cooked quinoa.

So I ended up with a giant party-sized bowl of salad. It needed a little seasoning adjustment, salt, pepper-more lemon at the end because although the initial mix was super flavorful, it got a little diluted in the “sea of quinoa.”

quinoa salad

My advice is next time use half as much quinoa or double the amount of the other stuff and invite 12 people over.

Check out a “winter salad” version here.

“Hakuna Frittata”

Loosely translates to “no worries egg dish”

Although a frittata IS an easy egg dish and a great way to use up whatever is hanging around your kitchen, for us, making one instantly has us singing tunes from “The Lion King.”    As in “Hakuna Frittata” – corny right?

(Kinda of like when I make “empanadas” and we sing the song “Desparado!”)

Anyway this one started out because I had a bag of spinach hanging around needing to be used up and some of the baby gold potatoes.

spinachin the pan

So I sliced up the baby gold potatoes (about a 1/4″ thick) and layered them in a well-sprayed, oven proof 10″ saute pan with some butter on med heat to start softening while I prepped (de-stem the spinach, crack eggs and pour cream) the other stuff. Turn the heat off and add all the goodies in first on top of the potatoes:

1/2 of an 8oz bag of spinach (raw), about 4 oz. crumbled feta, about 8 sundried tomatoes chopped small, plenty of salt and pepper, a shake of garlic powder for a little “warmth.”

And than the liquids get poured carefully over this – I used about a cup of “half and half” ( I was out of milk) and 8 large eggs. Make sure you whisk the eggs and cream (or milk) together first. A little more salt and pepper on top.

ready for the oven

Pop this into a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 mins or until the middle is set and fluffy. Kinda like this….

out of the oven

Now be patient and let it cool a bit – this is best served, and slices cleaner, if you let it cool significantly. This frittata is filling and satisfying, yet deceiving in that it is light. But it is by no means “diet food.” My husband loved it and that is saying a lot since he doesn’t eat anything that might seem at all like “diet food.”

Might I suggest a glass of wine and some crusty warm bread with this?

have a slice

Green Bling

Most girls would consider “bling” something along the lines of diamonds. Maybe even just some really nice costume jewelry.

But for me “bling” comes in the form of food.  “Food bling” is one those items that wasn’t on your grocery list. You weren’t even thinking about it when you walked in. But there from across the aisle, hiding behind some stacked bulk sale items, it catches your eye. Suddenly you have forgotten what you even came in for. Because all you can think about is rationalizing this “bling” purchase that you can’t live without!

My "green bling"

My “green bling”

When I saw this gorgeous asparagus, so fresh and healthy looking, everything else just faded away. I disregarded any seasonality, had no idea if it was organic, I just knew I had to have it. (Okay I admit, it was on sale too – that helped.)

But how would I use it?

With something equally glamorous of course….

"red rice"

“red rice”

My mom discovered this lovely colored, nutritional wonder on a recent trip. Upon returning home she has incorporated it into her diet and was nice enough to give me some extra cooked rice last time I was visiting. I was waiting for just the right partner to use it with.

Behold the red rice salad…

rice and asparagus salad

First I  jazzed things up by sauteing a small diced onion, minced garlic, and a pinch of red chili flakes in some olive oil. Than I added my freshly washed and cut asparagus. ( no pre-blanching for me – just let the water from washing them add a little “steam action” to your pan.) Once those were on their way, I added in my cooked rice – really just to heat it through and marry the flavors. Keep an eye on it – if it seems dry add some more olive oil or just a little water if you want to keep the fat/calories down. Salt and pepper to taste. ( don’t be shy with this – it is a simple dish)  At the end I splashed in a little rice vinegar to perk things up. (That easily could have been lemon juice instead.)  Topped it with a little crumbled feta. (low fat even!) Serve warm, serve room temperature, serve chilled. (but not cold) But whichever way you choose, you will be able to fully justify this “bling” once you taste it.

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day!

“Storm Stew” (guest blogger)

Since I am extremely busy with work and midterms at school right now, my poor husband has had to fend for himself. But recently he has more than “fended for himself” – he rolled out a wonderful take on “pork cacciatore.” Here is what he had to say about his process and a few photos he took along the way….

Yet another blizzard day here in Boston and since I had the day off – I knew that it would be a perfect day for a big pot of Italian cooking. (Well at least Irish- American – Italian cooking!)

I started things off by consulting one of my wife’s many cookbooks and settled on Marcella Hazen’s The Classic Italian Cook Book, circa 1973. I figured if it has been around that long, she must know what she is talking about. Page 93 “Tomato Sauce I” got me started on a grocery list and a mission.

Next up was the meat. I like a “meaty” sauce and ever since my buddy Marky advised putting a chuck roast in the “gravy” I have never done it any other way. Except today. Today was a pork day. So a piece of pork butt went in.

Under advisement from a sleepy wife in the early am I heated the oil HOT and seared the meat.

Under advisement from a sleepy wife in the early morning,  I heated the oil HOT and seared the meat.

After searing the meat and putting it aside, I chopped up a classic “mire poix” of celery, carrots and onions. ( ok maybe I asked her for a little advice on this part too.)

so what if my pieces are a little big - I like it that way!

so what if my pieces are a little big – I like it that way!

Next up: add the mushrooms.

now it is more like a Cacciatore!

Now it is more like a Cacciatore!

I added in some tomato stuff, seasoning, garlic and put the meat back in and then the hard-part – waiting for it to cook and fully develop into the masterpiece I know it will be!

oops - A bit of a mess in the kitchen but I KNOW it will be worth it!

oops – A bit of a mess in the kitchen but I KNOW it will be worth it!

And it was! Totally delicious served as is – meat and sauce- but even better with the starch of your choice: garlic bread, rice, pasta or roast potatoes!

wifey says…What a wonderful and yummy dish to come home to! Thanks honey!