Thursday, December 12, 2013

it is cold outside

And i am doing a Cajun style gumbo.
I do not have access to the dried sassafras leaves that make up the Cajun file used often, but the taste is very on point!

5 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon Sage Leaf
2 cups celery, chopped
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 table spoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt (add more to taste)
2 cups chicken stock
32 oz of canned whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups okra, chopped
2 cups chicken, diced
1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced
Bacon fat to coat the pot
water to maintain liquid
flour and butter to make roux

begin to sauté the onions with pepper, salt and paprika on medium high heat.
When they become translucent add, garlic, celery, peppers and okra.
Take bay leaves and sage leaves and boil then in a separate pot with water or chicken stock for 5 minutes to extract flavor, strain and add to main pot.
Add all the remaining ingredients and bring the liquid level up to 2 quarts.
Continue simmering for several hours (minimum 2 hours, but more is good!)
Add roux to thicken slightly and serve over rice

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas time

Okay i call it this, but call it whatever you want.
I bake this one time of the year and i bake goodies that people rave over.
This is a traditional recipe


· 1 pound softened sweet (unsalted) butter (do not clarify for firmer cookies)
· 1/2 cup granulated sugar
· 1 tablespoon Orange zest or candied rinds (reduce sugar by 1/8th cup if you use candied rinds) chopped fine
· 1 tablespoon lemon zest
· 1 & 1/2 cup well chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or a mix)
· 2 teaspoons orange flavor
· 1-teaspoon anise flavor
· 1 tablespoon orange juice or water
· 4+ cups flour (for cookies that are more cake-like (my mother suggestion), use 2½ cups cake flour and 2 cups regular flour – this also required more flour than the original, regular flour recipe to get the correct consistency of the mixture)
· 1 egg
· Powdered sugar

Whip the butter 30 seconds then add sugar and beat till fluffy.
Add egg and continue to whip.
Change to a beater bar (not wire Wisk)
Add zest or rinds, nuts, orange and anise flavor and mix
Add flour and then add water.
Continue to beat until the mixture begins to “ball” into clumps. (Sometimes I need to add more flour)
You may shape the cookie, keep in balls or “squash down”. Your choice.
They should be place with 1/2 inch between.
Roll into balls and place on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes at 350º F. The cookies will be tan and have the edges just brown.
They must cool before removing from tray (but not cold).
Place on tray and cover with powdered sugar.
Eat at room temperature.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

in the midst of problems, something really good!

So earlier this week i had a major computer melt down and one of the issues was the backup drive died and took a lot of information with it.
That included all my own recipes...
SO undaunted i went for cooking my pork ribs, inside because outside was just nasty!
My restaurant savvy friend gave me a a greater than 9.5 out of 10, which almost never happens.

Here is my recipe:
Pork Ribs in the oven
(when grilling is not going to work)

dry rub ratios: put on pork for up to 24 hours before cooking
·       4 raw sugar
·       2 apple wood smoked salt
·       2 paprika
·       1 dry chipolte peppers
·       2 dry ginger
·       1 dry minced orange zest
·       1 cumin
·       1 garlic-parsley powder mix

Wet rub (or just buy Lawry's Baja chipolte marinade and add orange juice and sugar)
·       1/2 cup of lime juice
·       1 - 4 oz can of tomato paste
·       2 finely minced chipolte peppers
·       1 teaspoon garlic
·       1/2 minced onion
·       1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
·       1 cup orange juice

Mix well and then blend until smooth.
This is poured over the pork ribs before cooking.

·       the prepared ribs are placed in a baking pan and wrapped tight with foil
·       initial oven temperature is 220 F for 5 hours
·       raise temperature to 275 for an additional 2 hours
·       uncover, pour off wet marinade and fat into a sauce pan
·       broil ribs for 10 minutes
·        add 2 tablespoons sugar to the sauce
     ·   reduce sauce on the stove top and serve on the side

These are NOT competition ribs as the meat falls of the bone,
but, oh, they are so good!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


For many years i thought of the concept of a soup or stew as coming from Northern climates,
so they were filled with root vegetables and starches, fatty meats and heavy spices.
Then i was introduced by two neighbors, one who was originally from El Salvador and the other from the Dominican Republic.  Both soups were a variation of the Dominican "San Cocho", but were served in HOT weather and both were absolutely delicious.
Yucca, corn, a variety of meats, sweet potatoes and rice were some of the components and the spicing seemed light.
I would not attempt either, though one used OX tail as the meat and i was familiar with the concept from my mom.
Closed mined no more, i might make a soup on a warm day, but often on a cold one, if for no ther reason than to warm the house from the stove.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

something different

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped fine (or use defrosted, drained frozen spinach)
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, whipped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
unsalted butter to grease muffin pans

mix all ingredients together and stir well

Bake 17 to 20 minutes at 400 F until the edges just are brown.
cool and refrigerate

Monday, November 11, 2013

slow cooking brisket

this is an art and each person does it a bit different, but there are basics to know.

The first is what you think is enough, will not be.
Properly cooked brisket is consumed and eaten and sought after.
Temperature is truly important - i prefer to do a 180 to 200 F cooking temperature...the last briskets i did stayed at that temperature for 24 hours and was by far the best i have made.
i put a rub on the brisket for 24 hours before it is cooked.  What is in the rub is really up your tastes buds, BUT you need to insure items that will have the taste you want when they are slow cooked.
I use a blend of salt, sugar, hot pepper, paprika, garlic and black pepper.  This does not reach far into the meat, but gives a bite to it as you sink your teeth into it.
Because this is slow and low, i can use garlic.  If it were a high heat the garlic would add bitterness.  I do not use fruit - i reserve that for pork, chicken and salmon.
The wood that is used is also discretionary and usually has to do with the part of the country you are from.  Remembering this, know that fruit tree can give a sweet smoke, nut trees give a stronger, harsher flavor.  Do not use evergreens!
With my wood smoker, i had trouble maintaining the correct temperature without constant supervision.  I was talked into getting an electronic smoker and the temperature is well controlled.
The heat though MUST be moist.  A tray of liquid between the heat source and the brisket is essential.  I tend to just use water, but others use apple juice, wine and any number of non flammable other liquids
After 12 hours of cooking, you should wrap it so it does not lose moisture.
Save the juices that drip into the pan and make a dipping sauce or a gravy if you wish.
Finally, after it is out, you must let the brisket sit a cool a bit before it is cut.
This is artistry in the cooking world...enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The party

Yes, i threw a party for my birthday,
no i do not have pictures, but others may surface.

The Menu -
24 hour slow smoked brisket - This was incredible, moist and tender and delicious
A sauce to go along with it - i call it a BBQ sauce.  All my BBQ sauce are made from the meat drippings and fruit.  This time i used apples, but my favorite is mango.
Butter beans - Lima beans cooked in a butter sauce
macaroni and cheese - there were 2 kinds, but the adult version (with bacon and crisped ham) did not reheat so well.  The other was perfect.
Salmon - no time to grill, but i used the same orange juice and zest, maple syrup, paprika and smoked salt that i always use and reduced the marinade to make a sauce.
Corn bread - with cheese and peppers and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
i was going to have some zucchini, but it froze and was not good.
The people who came brought dessert, but it was too much dessert!
we all had lots of fun.
Oh, the numbers of people? 23!
What a good night

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roasting Pumpkin seeds

I keep refining my technique and this is my final product.
With pumpkins in plentiful supply from October through November, i love to cook with them,
but love roasted seeds as well.

First thing i learned was that you first must boil them...
If you want them salted, add 1 teaspoon per pint to the water.
Boil for 30 minutes.

Strain, rinse and blot dry.

place on a sheet tray and spread them out evenly.

This is the next thing i learned...
i normally do a lot of baking and cooking at 350 F  (~ 175 C).
If you use this temperature, you must watch very carefully or the seeds (and other things) will scorch.
I use 300 F (~ 150 C) and let them cook for 2 hours.
leave them in the oven and turn off the heat.
when everything is cool - enjoy eating them!

A very strange Idea

"They say i went crazy once"...
Okay, i think i still am...
There was this chili cook-off benefiting the local food bank, i have participated 4 years now...
the last 3 i made traditional Texas chili, meat, no beans.
It was not received well.
As i said, i went a bit nuts and created a dessert chili...
not just any dessert chili, but a meatless, full of beans, COLD dessert chili!
As it turns out it was not just vegetarian, not just Vegan, but gluten free also.
I was surprised that it was well received in the cold, windy tent where it was held this year.
There were celebrities (Hunter for the Rachel vs Guy kid celebrity chef competition was one).
I did not expect to "win" (and no i did not), but i decided to throw away the box, so here is the recipe:

A special Thanks to Irene Hahn for the pictures!

Vegan and served cold

1 bag dried small red beans
4 apples, cored and peeled
16 oz canned pumpkin
1 red chili peppers, seeded and diced
1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Hatch chili peppers seeded and diced
1/2 Habenero pepper, seeded and diced
1 beer
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 quart apple juice
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon anchiote powder
1 bar of dark chocolate

soak beans in water overnight and drain
cook with water, apples and pumpkin at a simmer for 2 hours
blend and then strain with a course open strainer
add all other ingredients, except for the beer and bring back to a simmer
simmer until the chili becomes very thick,
the last 30 minutes may require constant stirring

Cool and serve cold

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Crab and lobster chowder

5 potatoes, diced
2 cups white wine (i use a Rhine wine)
1 stick butter
2 ounces smoke cured bacon
1 cup leeks, diced
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup celery, diced
2 small lobsters, cooked
1 lb lump crap
2 cup half and half
1 cup dry potato flakes
1 teaspoon corn starch

cook the potatoes and leeks in butter till the potatoes are just brown
add the wine, tarragon, celery and paprika and reduce the heat to just a simmer
remove the lobster meat from the shell and set aside
take all the shells and put them in a separate pot with water and boil for 30 minutes
Add the remainder of the liquid to the pot with them potatoes and rinse once.
Brown and crisp the bacon and add to the pot
add half and half.
dissolve the corn starch in a teaspoon of water and add to the pot
Increase the heat and stir continually until the desired thickness is reached
add lobster and crab and serve.

Pork should with a different flair

I often combine methods and spices from different cultures that i have been exposed to.
An simple example is that i will often "toast" my spices the way i was taught to in Indian cooking.
This time i went a bit crazy, i did not want Pernil, but rather a traditional roast pork flavor.
Yet i wanted the tenderness that goes with a slow cooked pork.
The other thing i wished to incorporate was the flavor rum imparts to pork when used as a marinade.
You do not taste the rum, but something changes dramatically and it is something i love.

Pork Shoulder with apples

1 pork shoulder - remove layer of fat to make Chicharróns
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 cups rum
apple juice (~2 cups)
6 apples, cored, not peeled and halved

mix all of the dry ingredients together and set aside 1/2 half of it
make 6 deep cuts into the shoulder and place whole garlic in each one
place pork garlic slices down in a baking pan and pour the rum over it
place apples over it, covering the pork
rub the shoulder with the dry mix and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours
before cooking turn the pork over and rub with the remaining dry rub
Chicharróns are cut into strips and then pieces and placed in a separate baking dish not covered
begin cooking the pork covered with foil at 250 F for 4 hours
add apple juice to maintain moisture
Increase to 320 F for 2 hours
Remove the foil and increase oven temperature to 385 for 30 minutes
remove and serve with the apples

Chicharróns are ready at this time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall cooking inspiration

As weather turns color and the colors begin to show on the leaves the inspiration in my cooking turns to my French/German roots, Alsatian to be correct.
So what first?
Going with a non-traditional sauce for ravioli, meaning not a red sauce.  Everything (save the ravioli, olive oil, wine and sausage) were out of the garden.
I shared my creation and they took a picture, cause i usually don't remember to take a picture!
1 Italian style squash (pale green, with a thick skin, but not hard) - peeled and roughly cut into 2 inch chunks
1 eggplant - peeled, soaked in salt water for 1 hour
5 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
2 inch sprig of Rosemary - finely diced
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano - roughly chopped
1/4 cup basil - roughly chopped
1 onion - roughly chopped
1 lbs Italian sausage
5 tomatoes - roughly chopped
2 red cayenne peppers
1 sweet red pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 5 inch stalks of celery - roughly chopped
4 cups rose wine
Olive oil to coat the pan
Store made frozen ravioli (i simply do not have to confidence yet to make it from scratch!)

Cook the sausage in a large pot coated with olive oil on high heat
when just brown, add onions and when just translucent add garlic and continue cooking on high for a minute, stirring constantly.
Add all the peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, celery and spices.
Add the wine and reduce the heat to a slow simmer when it starts to boil.
Cover a cook for 1 hour.
Salt to taste

Cook the ravioli according to the directions, drain and plate ravioli with sausage on the side with the "vegetable stew/sauce" over the ravioli.
Grate a good Parmesan cheese over it.

More cooking tonight!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Thinking i am in a rut,
not being very "creative" with the food i serve;
i have a chance to eat as a neighbors.
Plain simple food is served:
rice, beans and a thin meat flavored with peppers and carrots and Latin spices.
It was good, really good and it dawned on me that this is how i have been cooking as of late;
I have been using very seasonal ingredients, cooking with flavor, but no flair.
Squash, peppers, tomatoes, peppers, spices from the garden.
There is nothing "special" or out of the box, but people are happy and full  at the end of a meal.
I forget that that is what cooking is and on occasions we do something that makes the ordinary special,
but i can not forget that the ordinary is also always special!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

back to herbs

i use some herbs that are not tremendously common, sometimes.
Fenugreek is one and have had a difficult time finding it.
I would say the flavors pair well with Indian food, which i will cook at times.
Hard to find, but i found the seeds and so have been harvesting it and find that it is also better dried (more flavor) and so have dried my first batch.
Tarragon is more common, but i grew that also and now have a great batch of it; used with fish and poultry, i particularly like it with crab!
Cinnamon basil, smells more like a Thai basil and so that is what i use it with.
Leeks i have grown for the first time.
Fennel seed is a staple in my garden (and hard to get rid of) - teas, extracts and sausages are my main focus.
Marjoram, much like oregano, but used more in Mexican cooking.
Thyme, one of my favorites for poultry.
cilantro, parsley, rosemary, celery all make the appearance in my garden and the smells are marvelous to take in while walking.
Spearmint and peppermint also ten to take over as i brush past....
This fall is fun!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Italian Squash (Cucuzzi)

Two kinds shown here.  The long one is over 5 feet long (yes, i said that).    The skin is tough, sometimes, but it is edible so this belongs to the summer squash classification rather than a tough, heavy skin, which is winter squash.

 Traditionally served with a meatloaf filling,  i had to try something different and went with sausage.

1 long or 2 short squash
1 pound of sausage (in casing or without
toasted fennel seed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
fresh rosemary, minced fine.
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

cheese to sprinkle on top

Cut the squash into 4 inch lengths and core out the seeds, leaving a hole for the sausage.
boil the squash separate from the seeds, adding a teaspoon of salt to the water.
Boil the squash seeds with the sausage (if in casing) and garlic, fennel and rosemary with one teaspoon salt.
Otherwise fry the sausage and add the fat to the seeds.
After bringing the squash to a boil and the squash has become slightly darker, remove it from the water.
discard the water.
continue reducing the squash seed liquid until there is less than 1/2 of liquid.
Stuff the squash with sausage and place in a baking pan.
Pore squash seeds and liquid into the pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes
Remove from the oven and serve with Parmesan cheese over top of the squash (either whole or halved)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What i cook when i am away, and some times at home also

Farmhouse Chicken Thighs

Why farmhouse you ask?  It is because when i go down to a farm in Virginia, i use only what is available to me from the farm (but i buy the chicken, so not to slaughter the egg layers)

4 chicken thighs (okay, i really like thigh meat best with the skin on)
1 inch stalk of rosemary, minced very fine
1 teaspoon of fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup scallions
2 cups Sangria (the very cheap kind)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup fresh peas, without pods

Add enough olive oil to a 2 quart cooking pot and add 1 teaspoon salt.
When the oil is hot from  high flame, add the thighs, shin down to brown them.
When brown add oregano, rosemary and black pepper and then turn the thighs skin side up.
Add the wine and allow it to reduce on  a simmer by reducing the heat.
Add carrots first and after 5 minutes add peas and scallions.
Reduce the wine till it becomes thick.
Taste the liquid and add more salt if needed
there is no need for flour because the fat from the chicken and the olive oil become an emulsion with the wine.

Serve with you favorite starch (i love roasted red potatoes with this.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frozen, canned and fresh

There is a mighty movement for farm to table, getting the freshest ingredient possible at any time and i would maintain that limits you.
One strange example is where my biochemistry back ground comes in, i prefer to first freeze all my meats and fish because freezing "pops" the cell membrane and i rub the spice mixes or marinade while defrosting.  The flavor gets deeper.
Fresh must be used within a limited time frame and if you can get something on sale, you can not stock up.
Canned and frozen vegetables are usually picked at the ripeness peak and if you are cooking with them and the canned product does not have extra things added, there is no reason not to use.
With vegetables, frozen is best for me, but i really do like working with fresh from my garden.
Spices, a new category is added, dried and most spices lose flavor when dried, but most of us can not have a winter garden in our kitchen.
The big exception is oregano (and i suppose marjoram) where the flavor intensifies when dried.  From my experience Thyme also is stronger dried.
Delicate items like mint and basil can be dried, but even careful drying will lose flavor.  Cilantro can only be preserved in a mixture and frozen.
The opening of cell walls in plants is not a good thing in other words.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"pre" made, store bought additives

yes, i used them for very specific things, but my list is not large.
I prefer making most of my own, but there are times....

Lawry's Baja Chipolte lime marinade - used instead of grinding and blending my own Chipolte peppers (which have variable heat) with lime and sugar.  I use this in Hamburger meat to make Kick-ass grilled hamburgers.  The ratio is 3 oz to 2 lbs of meat.

Bisquick - can not do without it to make all kinds of things, particularly biscuits.

Cream of mushroom or celery soup - i do not make soup with it, but rather as an additive and thickener for many meals, mostly using chicken.

Instant potato flakes - this is a thickener for my potato based soups and stews (and sometimes i use it to thicken mashed potatoes that have had a mistake with liquid addition)

Filo dough - i will not spend three hours trying to make dough that thin.

Dry pasta - i have not had the courage to make my own pasta yet - maybe some day....

Most of this is amazing as i make some things that most people buy - Enchilada or taco sauce is my own.
Spice rubs are my own
tomato sauce is my own (save some times i add some Ragu to thicken it)
BBQ sauce is y own.
I grow most of my own spices (and dry them)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pesto in a different manner

i like to learn from other cultures, the addition of spinach comes from South America, nuts (or sunflower seeds in this case) are an Italian addition.  The bacon is well, American?

Chicken pesto on Fettuccine

2 lbs chicken meat (will end up boneless, any part will do)
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (because Pinole nuts are too expensive)
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
8 oz spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1 package bacon
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup sunflower seeds

Boil the chicken, removing any skin and bones after it has cooled
Cook the bacon crisp
mix chicken and bacon together and roughly chop, set aside.

Boil the spinach for one minute remove from heat and drain
Add spinach, basil, garlic, salt and olive oil to a blender and blend until smooth.
add 2 cup water, sunflower seeds and 1/2 parmesan cheese and mix

Prepare your favorite pasta (i use fettuccini for this) and plate on top of pasta as follows
teaspoon of cheese, tablespoon of chicken/bacon then the pesto sauce.

Add crushed hot pepper as an option

Friday, August 9, 2013

the challenge

For a number of months, i have been working under a severe challenge...
I need to prep or pre-cook in one location, be interrupted and then move to another.
The reasons this happens are multiple, many of the mistakes in the previous post are due to this.
If i move my supplies to cook in another kitchen, i inevitably forget something and have to substitute.
If i cook a meal completely and then reheat in the other location, things get dried out.
I have not been really successful yet at working things out.
Tonight i used an ingredient, which i created, cilantro salt, but it was not cilantroy enough and much too salty.  After starting, i had to leave and came back to my chops too salty.
I will over come this challenge, but it is difficult.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I make a lot of them, some are not edible...
Most of the time they have great flavor, but are just cooked WRONG.

I was listening to a pod cast the other day with my cooking idols, Bobby Flay and Alton Brown.
They talked about mistakes they have made...
Mistakes, Bobby?  He is not perfect?
Oh My, what can i say.

Neither am i.
Recently i have had a bad series of dishes using grilled chicken.

I have done grilled chicken before and done it well,
most most of the time i pre-cooked and then crisped up on a grill.
I want to cook it completely o the grill.
I listen to Bobby Flay doing it and Alton brown.
I failed, several times now.
The last time i set the fire in the grill/smoker wrong and the temperature is up to over 400 F.
Needless to say, the chicken was over cooked.
The thing to say, is that i learn.
I know how i can do it correctly, i want to expand beyond my oven and pot delicious chicken.
I will, meanwhile Pizza and Chinese delivery is on speed dial.

Friday, July 26, 2013

more potatoes

Everyone who reads here knows i love potatoes and i do many styles and this is one that got rave reviews:

Spicy Mashed Potatoes

10 medium potatoes
1 Chipolte pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon Sweet Green and Red Pepper, diced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Half and Half
Instant dry mashed potato flakes

Cook the potatoes by your favorite method (i use the microwave potato setting)
Melt the butter with the garlic, Chipolte pepper, sweet peppers and salt
add the milk and Half and Half and bring to a simmer
Remove the Chipolte pepper and mix with the cooked potatoes
USE a FOOD MILL to add the potatoes to the simmering mixture
turn off the mixture and mix thoroughly.
Loosen the mixture with more warm half and half
or thicken the mixture with instant dry potato flakes

Thick Pork Chops

You know those inch plus thick pork chops that most people tell you to stuff?  I do not like to stuff them, but this is what i do to keep them moist inside.

Thick Pork Chops

4 Equally Thick (1" or more) Pork Chops
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Rosemary, minced
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup rose wine

Mix Juice and wine and pour into a large baking pan
Mix dry ingredients and rub the chops
place the chops in the baking pan with liquid

Broil on high for 10 minutes (or till browned) and flip to the other side
Bake at 300 F for until the internal Temperature is 160 F (about 1 hour)
Serve with the cooking liquid (which has thickened a bit)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Capturing Summer

To start this post, a simple apology because it has been to hot for me to be my normal self
and so i have not posted here recently, but there has been a lot going on.

I could have titled this port: " A some what technical dissertation about tradition", but it is about drying spices and preserving summer made more sense.

So, i love traditional flavors and use them often.
I often "tweak" them to my style, but the traditional flavor is there.

The "traditional" way to dry spices is to cut the branch and hang it up side down until the leaves dry and them capture the crumbled leaves for later use.

When i first tried it, i questioned it, sure hanging the branches upside down was helpful, but flavor seemed to not be retained in the leaves, so i tried something different...
I removed the leaves and dried them separate and it seemed i had much more flavor.
This is not definitive so i decided to a chemist.
The easiest compound for me to analyze was chlorophyll, but chlorophyll degrades to phenophytin as vegetation dies...
I separated the mint leaves into 2 groups, one i removed the leaves immediately, the other left on the stem till they dried.
I did take a sample of each first to measure chlorophyll, to insure they were approximately equal and they were.
The dried product was the checked and yes the phenophytien levels were higher in those leaves that were taken off the branch.  I make the assumption that the same happens to the flavors.

I know take the leaves off before dring herbs.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It is summer!
Fresh Vegetables and a cool soup in the way to go!

Working within my heritage, inspired by Tzatziki!

gazpacho - Greek Inspired

3 medium lemons, juiced
2 cucumbers, peeled
3 tomatoes, cleaned
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh dill weed
5 scallions, green part only
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)

All is placed in a blender and liquefied, serve cold

Friday, June 7, 2013

success when cooking with \a fish i don't like

It is Tilapia, the fish that i have not liked previously.
I have had it cooked for me, i have had it in restaurants and i have tried to cook it previously,
i always found "Meh" at best.
No flavor,
no soul
and sometimes a "tinny" taste.
The challenge was issued by my GM friend (of several major restaurants),
it was his favorite fish.
The fish was on sale, as it often is, and so i went for a challenge.
Special ingredients were up my sleeve:
something new off the self - Panko bread crumbs with chipolte peppers!
Then a blend of dried oregano, basil and sun dried tomatoes, all diced up nice.
A not so good sesame oil, so no added taste.
So here is how it went:

2 pounds thawed tilapia fillets
sesame seed oil to coat the bottom of a 17" x 12" cookie sheet
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon dried oregano, basil and sun dried tomato blend, minced
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs with chipolte peppers

1 tablespoon of  the  dried oregano, basil and sun dried tomato blend is added to the pan with the oil.
Mix and add in the salt.
place the tilapia pieces on the tray and then sprinkle the remaining dried oregano, basil and sun dried tomato blend over each piece.
Refrigerate for 1 hour
Sprinkle the bread crumbs on each piece, flip the fish and sprinkle again.
Cook in a 425 F oven for 7 minutes.
Serves 5.

The team who i cooked for rated it a AAA!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

going South again

Pork, pulled or Shredded with
BBQ Sauce

2 lbs southern cut pork ribs
Cooking oil - enough to just coat pot
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 Jalapeno, minced
2 Chipolte peppers, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1 tablespoon dry orange zest
2 limes, juiced
6 oz tomato paste

sear the ribs in a large pot with a touch of cooking oil with salt and paprika
when brown to black, add onions and 1 garlic clove
cook till the garlic is brown (yes there is bitterness, you want that)
add orange juice, sugar, orange zest, Jalapeno and the remainder of the garlic.
Cover pot, set the heat on low and reduce liquid by half (~2 hours)
Remove ribs and as much fat as possible (discard fat)
Used a fork to remove any bones and the shred the pork.
Drain the fat and discard, but add any non-fat liquid back to the pot.
Add smoked salt, Chipolte peppers, lime juice and tomato paste to the liquid
cook on low until desired thickness (~30 minutes)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Middle Eastern

My mom's Parents were from Greece, one from Crete, the other Cyprus, so many dishes she created had that middle Eastern flavor.
I served these the other night, a complementary pair:  chicken and tabouli salad.

chicken Middle Eastern style

4 chicken quarters
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1/2 medium red onion, minced

mix garlic, onion, cinnamon, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and dried parsley together
mix raisins, peppers and onions and spread them on a baking pan
rub each piece of chicken with this and set in the pan.
bake at 375 F for 30 minutes
Reduce heat to 225 till the internal temperature of the chicken is 160 F (~30 minutes)
Serve on a bed of cracked wheat or with a side of tabouli salad.

2 cups bugler wheat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 tomatoes diced
2 cucumbers diced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh mint, diced
2 cups plain yogurt

mix garlic, cinnamon, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper together with the dry wheat
Rehydrated the wheat mixture with 4 cups boiling water and then let cool 2 hours.
fluff with a fork after it is completely cooled
Mix in cucumbers, onions, peppers, tomatoes, mint and parsley.
Mix the sesame oil, lemon juice and yogurt  into the wheat mixture.
Chill and serve adding extra yogurt if desired.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

clam, not so chowder

with our kitchen still in "progress", i have been cooking at one of our families other houses.
Thee are significant differences:
it is a large kitchen, with an electric stove and they do not have many of the supplies i normally use.
So i truck in stuff that i can find in the disarray at my home and hope i have not forgotten anything.

There are many dietary restrictions which people live with and i had to work with 2 people with an intolerance for milk products and one who has a very dangerous allergy to lobster, crab and shrimp and i wanted to do a chowder.
Additionally, i have never made a chowder before and so consulted the many recipe outlets on the internet.
Of course, not one had the kind of ingredients i needed and wanted to work with, but it gave me ideas.
As an aside, i do not like Manhattan clam chowder, so i was not going there either, but what i came up with was a success.

Joey's own Clam, not so chowder

1 pound of clam meat, minced
3 potatoes, cubed in half inch pieces
1 6 oz bottle clam juice
1 can vegetable stock
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup corn
5 finger size carrots, diced small
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup scallions, green part diced
1 lb package bacon
flour, to make a roux

Cut up the bacon and cook it to crispy in a large pot
remove the bacon and cook the potatoes for 10 minutes on medium high heat (they should not brown, but should become soft)
Remove the potatoes and drain the excess bacon fat.
add onions, carrots, corn and garlic and just sweat the onions till translucent and then add the clam broth and vegetable stock
bring to a simmer and add back the potatoes, bacon, scallions and the can of cream of celery soup.
bring to a simmer and add the clams and thicken with roux.

serve with parsley sprinkled on top.
Pair with corn on the cob and garlic bread!

This is a full meal!

Monday, April 8, 2013

the beginning of a move

while i am away for a few weeks, the demo on our kitchen will begin.
It will not be completed until i come back and so i will be using an alternate kitchen.
Last night i did a trial run using an electric stove in this alternate kitchen.
Used a grill i brought over that will stay (note: it is NOT my smoker) and a few other items.
It is a much larger kitchen with a lot of counter space.
The meal was grilled baby back pork ribs, escarole and mushrooms, baked yams and my smoky Avocado salad.  Dessert is simple orange jello with pineapple and whipped cream (with cinnamon and vanilla).
Several other people came so the total number was 7.
I did everything and it took me 2 hours (this includes hand whipping the whipped cream, which is a lot of work).
One of the people is the general manager of a large restaurant.

Again it was a success and people were surprised that i was able to do it, but i was very happy to do it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Smokey sides

Potatoes smoky mashed

10 small potatoes, mixed white and red, scrubbed clean
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1 cup chives, diced
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup half and half
2 ounces extra sharp cheese, diced into 1/2 inch squares
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 cup sour cream

Food mill

i cheat, i microwave the potatoes, but you can also boil them and discard the water.
boil the water with salt, chives and rosemary and reduce the heat to low.
add the milk and smoked salt to the water.
use the food mill on the potatoes and add to the liquid
mix and add the half and half, cheese and then sour cream keeping the heat on low
If the mixture is too liquid, continue to heat on the stove, constantly stirring
OR place in a baking pan and bake it at 350 F for 30 minutes
OR add instant potatoes to the desired consistency

Thursday, April 4, 2013

signs of Spring

It is not the flowers, crocuses or daffodils.
it is not being able to grill, tho that counts strongly also.
It is seeing that lowly leafy plant - the dandelion.
Now i know the dandelion from the Italians i knew,
but the Greek survived on an occupied island during World War II on plants that seemed to be weeds
and were family to the dandelion.
A people who hid from their occupiers, eating nothing but this pant.
It turns out this plant provided complete nutrition and they did not even need meat.

So here goes the dandelion recipe:

Dandelions fried

2 lbs dandelions, pick or store bought, washed and cleaned
4 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon red pepper, hot, crushed if dry, minced if wet
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil to cover the pan.

Heat the oil and add all the ingredients except the dandelions and fry for a minute.
Add the dandelions, whole and continue down until they reduce by as much as 75%.
Serve hot with anything as a side.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

doing something different

Admittedly, i get into a rut with some recipes.
Even more so there are things i simply do NOT make from scratch.
Then there are times traditional ingredients are not in my cupboard and i improvise.
Then there are times i need an extender that does not take for the flavor of something crucial.

In this case, we are talking ravioli, i have not challenged my self to make the dough.
So i buy pre-made (i hear groans).
Give me time.
I normally make a thin red sauce from crushed tomatoes and pureed tomatoes.
And yes, i used canned,
but i was not in the mood.
I had basil i had frozen from last year in the freezer.
I did not have sun flower seeds (i substituted these for the traditional pignoli nuts (pine nuts) because of the cost and found they worked very well), but did have pumpkins seeds.
I found that i did not have enough basil and so i extended it with some spinach.

This was served over the raviolis and served with a bit extra cheese.
I had 3 calls that evening of people who tried it saying that it was the best they had.
Okay, i get an "A" in improvisation!

The recipe:

Pesto Sauce 2

10 oz pepitas (pumpkin seeds) roasted
1 cup frozen basil leaves (from last years garden)
1 container of frozen spinach
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cup water
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 long Italian, hot pepper

The oil, pepitas, hot pepper, garlic, basil, spinach and salt are placed in a blender and pureed.
If this thickens too much, add some water to complete the puree.
place the puree in a bowl, rinsing out the blender with the remainder of the water.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until needed.

The weather cooled down, i go for a soup

mushroom soup

1 stick butter, melted to just brown
1 red onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup beef bullion
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sausage, cooked and crumbled without casing
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 cup rose wine
4 cups water
1/2 cup baked ham, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
20 oz whole mushrooms, remove stems and grind them

after the butter is melted and beginning to brown add onions and celery.
stir in chopped stems and then add whole caps, sauté for 2 minutes
add the wine and bring to a simmer
Add the remainder of the ingredients, water and then soup
cook down till liquid is half of the volume.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a favorite salad

(MY favorite)

4 ripe avocados, diced
2 limes, juiced , but not strained
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Chipolte peppers, diced
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
1/2 cup onion or scallions, diced

mix everything together and mix gently with a fork
(the avocados will begin to mush anyway)
store in the refrigerator until ready to use (same day)
For an adult kick add 2 jiggers of Tequila

Monday, March 25, 2013

cooking from the heart, then missing the mark

i would say easily that all my successful dishes come from my heart.
There are times that knowledge play a big part,
but when distracted my "things",
not even my intellect can save the dish.
No recipe works and flavors fall flat.
Yes, if you read my other blogs, you can see there are many things that have caused me trouble as of late
and my food suffered.
A flounder dish was flat with little flavor, a linguine and clam sauce that had too many olives.
Even my trusted Jalapenos turned against me with variable heat - half a Jalapeno was too much, two were too little.
It was amazing, but i taking it all in stride knowing where the source was and then watching even the best chefs on TV, making simple mistakes.
I do not feel bad, but i hope things turn soon or else we will be going out to eat...

Friday, March 15, 2013

going south

no as in trashing, but my cooking as of late has taken a southward turn.
Maybe i can blame it on Alton Brown and his good eats on catfish (of course pan fried as the last part).
But then again, i am not following any recipie, just the basic guidelines.
An example is with the catfish:
which required buttermilk, which i did not i used beer making a lighter beer batter.
Nor did i have whole fillets, just nuggets. (which i think are more fun to eat)
I used the basic seasonings thoug -Old bay, cayyenne pepper, salt, paprika.
Neither did i have peanut oil - oh well so much for "Southern".
But eveeryone liked them and i was satisified.

2 days, i am doing pork ribs on the smoker (it was warm) and cole slaw.
The next day it was not enough - i was going to bake Cod, but i went to New Orleans instead
and balckened it with "dirty rice".

I thought i was going safe tonight with a chicken parm, but i had butter milk and so went with a buttermilk, almond panko bread crumb crusted filet.
The rest was traditional Italian.
When will i get this "southerness" out of my cooking?
May i don't want to.

Fried Catfish Nuggets

2 lb of catfish nuggets, cut to  a uniform size and clean any bones (do not mind any skin)
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika (or use smoked paprika is you do not have smoked salt)
1 teaspoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
cooking oil (i used canola)

batter #1 (from Alton Brown
1 cup stone ground fine cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup butter milk

batter #2 (since i did not have buttermilk)
1 cup stone ground fine cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 bottle beer

Wisk together the flour and corn meal and split in to 2 parts  (1/3 to 2/3)
add baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into the smaller portion, then mix in the beer
mix all the spices together with the remainder of the salt and then coat the catfish nuggets.
Dip each nugget into the wet mix and let excess drip off.
Coat both sides with the dry mixture and set aside for 5 minutes
gently add the nuggets to hot oil a few at a time (do not crowd them) till golden brown.
remove and let drain over a wire rack over absorbent paper.
Cook the remainder of the catch in batches in the same manner.
Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven up to 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

doing something different

There are many thing i make that i will make over and over again the same way
and then something strikes me and i must change things up...
Today it was black beans and stuffed peppers.
They were done vegetarian style (the beans are actually vegan) because during Lent,
Wednesdays are a meatless day and Fridays are fish.
So the first dish is for black beans.

Vegetarian Black Beans
2 cups dry black beans
1 tablespoon toasted dry orange zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup celery, chopped
1 32 oz can of diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
cooking oil

Soak the beans in cool water for at least 5 hours - water should be 2" over the top of the beans.
Drain beans and save the liquid.
In the cooking pot heat oil and then add onion and cook till just beginning to turn translucent.
Then add garlic, beans, celery and all the spices and continue to sauté for a few minutes (do not let the garlic brown!).
Add the liquid from the beans and the crushed tomatoes and 16 oz of water.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 3 hours.

the second was vegetarian stuffed green peppers:

Stuffed Peppers Vegetarian
3 large green bell peppers
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
3 half inch slice of feta cheese
6 cloves garlic, minced
cooking oil

Cook the rice with all the seasonings except the feta cheese and make the rice slightly watery.

Fill the peppers half way with the rice mixture then add a chunk of Feta cheese.
Fill the pepper to the top with more rice.
Place in a baking dish with a bit of cooking oil and bake for 1 hour at 350 F.
Note: my recipe generally calls for 2 eggs in the rice mixture to bind it together, but i forgot it and it did not make a difference!