Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Tacos!!

Okay, this one shouldn't surprise anyone who reads this blog! These are easy and a great way to add some variety to those holiday leftovers. Adjust proportions as needed, this recipe serves two.

INGREDIENTS:

- 2 cups turkey, rough-chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (substitute queso fresco or your favorite taco cheese)
- 1 cup arugula (any lettuce or fresh green works)
- Mexican or taco seasoning (these can be easily had at grocery or specialty shops -- or you could make your own)
- 4 soft taco-sized flour tortillas

White sauce:
- 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- Several generous shakes of your favorite hot sauce (I use Frank's or Louisiana)
- A dash of kosher salt and a few generous twists of black pepper
- The juice of 1/3 lime, fresh squeezed
- Chopped cilantro or green onion (this is optional)

Make sauce: combine ingredients in a bowl and stir well to mix. Set aside.

Prepare carrots and garlic. Toss turkey with seasoning mix. Put a skillet on medium heat and add oil and garlic, lightly sauteeing for 5-7 minutes. Allow garlic to become fragrant but not brown. Reduce heat to low and add turkey, sauteeting just long enough to mix it with the oil and get it warm (2-3 minutes). Depending on the meat's dryness, you may want to add a little more oil. Remove from heat.

Heat tortillas in microwave about 25 seconds. Place on a plate (as pictured) and assemble tacos: spoon a little sauce in each tortilla, sprinkle cheese on each and then add turkey, carrots, more sauce and arugula to top. Enjoy!! Leftovers can be fun after all!!!!

Thanksgiving Mussels

As it so often goes, I created this recipe by accident and ended up with something my guests not only loved, but have demanded in subsequent years. While I've named them Thanksgiving Mussels, they are good on most any chilly autumn or winter evening. As always, tweak proportions as needed. The recipe below serves four.


INGREDIENTS

- 2 pounds mussels (washed and scrubbed)
- 1/3 bottle red wine (something medium-bodied and dry, Cabernet will work well)
- 3/4 cup chopped red onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 12-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 box vermicelli or spaghetti noodles
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning (essentially a combination of oregano, rosemary, and thyme -- you could easily make your own)
- 1 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, put water on to boil for pasta. Next, in a large pot add about 1 inch of water to steam the mussels (they should sit on a steamer that fits inside the pot, an inexpensive and useful item for your kitchen). Place over low heat and cover, it will not take long to heat up.

Next, in a medium skillet, add oil, onion and garlic on medium heat. Saute 5-7 minutes, until garlic and onion are fragrant but not browning. When ready, add tomatoes and wine. Reduce and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally.

And, when you can lift the top off the pot and see steam rising, it's ready for the first batch of mussels (cook them in two). Add them, then cover.

Your saucepan should be boiling -- add the pasta.

As the shellfish and pasta cook, add the Italian seasoning to the broth simmering in the skillet, continuing to stir occasionally. As mussels cook, they will open up -- this usually takes between 5-10 minutes. Remove cooked mussels with tongs and place in a large covered bowl to keep warm. When ready, add the second batch. Discard any mussels that do not open.

When pasta is done, drain and divvy between four serving bowls. Next, add mussels and top with broth. Finally, grate parmesan cheese atop each bowl and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately with a cold white or sparkling wine.

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Garden Aperitif

 As mid-summer arrives, many of us find our gardens rife with tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, and the like. This recipe makes use of these summer garden staples, though you can always pick them up at a produce stand or farmer's market if you're not the gardening type.

This is a great appetizer or side dish to a variety of different things you could make on a summer afternoon or evening. It goes well with both a light-bodied red wine or a cold, white variety. Adjust proportions as needed. This will make enough to feed two.


INGREDIENTS
- 1 medium or large zucchini
- 1 tomato, medium or large
- Fresh mozzarella
- Fresh basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper

First, thinly slice the zucchini into however many pieces you need (8 are pictured), arranging on a plate or platter. You'll have leftover zucchini, unless you're feeding a LOT of people.

Next, slice the tomato as normal, then cut each slice in half so that it fits atop each zucchini slice. Then, place a thin, half slice of fresh mozzarella next atop each zucchini, topping them with a fresh basil leaf.

Drizzle the olive oil over the slices, then use your pepper mill to crack some fresh black pepper over them. Serve immediately.






Technology is still on vacation ...!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Too Much Zucchini? Try Enchiladas.

If you maintain a garden during the summer and happen to have made the decision to plant a few zucchini plants, then chances are it is coming in faster than you can handle. Or, perhaps you know or work with someone who keeps giving it to you ... either way, after frying it and using it in a few sautees you may feel like you're running out of options.

But alas -- there is a host of things that can be done with the tenacious zucchini, from pizza to calzones to pickling to pastas to veggie sandwiches.

Below illustrates is a great and simple way to enjoy them in enchiladas. As always, adjust portions as needed -- this will made about eight enchiladas.



INGREDIENTS

- 1 package flour or whole wheat tortillas, soft taco size (burrito tend to be too large, giving you an excess of bread)
- 1 or 2 medium zucchini, cubed
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup black beans (drained)
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Salsa verde

It's summertime and it's hot, so get a damn cold drink and preheat the oven to 425. Then, get a shallow baking dish and lightly coat it with olive oil to prevent sticking. Then, place a small amount (a 1/2 cup or so) of the salsa verde on the bottom of the pan, spreading it around.

Prep vegetables, keeping each separate. Remove tortillas from package, plate and heat in a microwave for 20-30 seconds, until they are warm and pliable (you could also use an oven or grill, just make sure you wrap them in foil if you do so to prevent hardening or burning).

Next, fill each tortilla by adding small amounts of cheese, onion, beans, zucchini and avocado. It's usually good to start with cheese and onion on the bottom, then add the rest of the ingredients except salsa and cilantro. Eyeball your portions, giving a decent amount of filling but taking care not to overfill the tortillas, as they will tear when you fold them.

Roll each tortilla by first folding the edges and then rolling it up so that the filling is trapped inside. Place each side-by-side in baking dish. When they are all in, top with salsa verde and shredded cheddar as shown below.
















Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the tortillas start to become crispy but not burnt or hard. When finished, remove and let stand for 5 minutes.




















Top them with chopped cilantro and serve with sour cream, hot sauce and perhaps some arugula or pea shoots (yes, try some different greens for a change).




















Today's music: The Mars Volta

Technology: put down that smart phone and go outside. Go to the pool. Ride a bike. Do some yard work. Grill out. Or at least sit under an umbrella with a drink and enjoy the summer. If it's too hot outside, go in and cook something!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summertime Barbecue: Spare Ribs






















Ribs are a great, simple and messy summertime dish that despite their simplicity can be tricky to do well. The most important ingredients is TIME.

When we get accustomed to grilling steak, pork chops, swordfish and the like, it's easy to get into the short-range grilling mindset. When it comes to ribs, often the task becomes an exercise in patience -- we feel that after 20 minutes the meat should be done ... but alas that is not the case here.

A large rack of spare ribs will need at least an hour+ (up to 90 minutes) on the grill at medium-high heat. Different grills vary, as do racks of ribs. If your grill burns very hot, this can be done largely hood-up, though lowering the hood for portions of the cook time can get things done faster. Further, because of the bone structure of spare ribs, using a meat thermometer is not completely reliable; in this case, simply find the thickest part of the meat, get the thermometer in there best you can (taking care not to push it all the way through, but get it settled firmly in the flesh), and keep an eye on it each time you flip the rack ... chances are, the temperature will read hotter on one side than the other. The lower temp reading will be closer to the truth.

This recipe is an easy one: a large rack of pork spare ribs, and a simple homemade barbecue sauce to baste with while grilling. If there is an off-the-shelf variety you like, it is easily substituted ... but seriously, don't you want to learn something new?

INGREDIENTS
- One large rack pork spare ribs (7-10 lbs)
- Kosher salt and black pepper (moderate amount to rub into raw meat)
- Simple Barbecue Basting Sauce: 1 cup organic ketchup, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp mustard, 2 tbsp hot sauce (habanero or cayenne-based both work well), salt and pepper to taste (they will bind everything together). Adjust proportions accordingly if you like it spicier, or if you want to make larger or smaller amounts. This recipe works for the rack size we're using here.

Ribs tend to pair well with lighter side dishes, such as grilled asparagus, peppers, onions or other light fare. Light-bodied beer or cold white wine tend to be good accompaniments.

----------

First, set rack out so that it reaches room temperature. Then, prepare sauce by combining ingredients into a saucepan on low heat. Mix well and stir occasionally until it starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Heat grill to medium-high heat. While that is working, coat the ribs with a small amount of salt and pepper, rubbing them into the flesh of the meat. When ready, insert thermometer in meat as directed above, and place on the center of the grill. Turn approximately every ten minutes or so. When grill marks start to appear, it's time to start basting.




















With your pan of sauce at your side, use a grill brush to spread the sauce over one side of the rack, and after it's next turn, the other. Don't use it all at once ... keep enough to baste at least a few more times. Ideally, you want enough sauce left for a final basting right before the rack comes off the grill.

When do you know they're done? As stated before, meat thermometers aren't that reliable, though if you have one it's better than nothing. When done, the meat exterior will take on a slightly blackened, crispy quality, but not to the point of being burned through. And, taking note of the rack's weight and the temperature you're cooking at will give you a good sense of when it will be done. Here is a nice guide for different methods of checking doneness:

http://www.amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/are_they_ready.html


When done, remove rack from the grill and let stand for about 10 minutes. Then you're ready to pull one off and try it ... and if successful, another ... and another.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chipotle Swordfish

Swordfish is one of the easier cuts of fresh fish to prepare. It's steak-like quality makes it ideal for grilling, though it is also a fine candidate for broiling. Sword has a distinctive 'un-fishy' quality, and for that reason tends to be well-received even by those not normally accustomed to seafood. Further, it's mild flavor and firm texture make it a good vehicle for a variety of treatments.

Let's get started ...

INGREDIENTS (adjust proportions as needed):
- Two fresh swordfish steak
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tsp fresh ground pepper
- 2 Tsp fresh ground chipotle pepper
- A few lime wedges (for finish)
- Flat-leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Make a nice drink, put on some tunes, and get your chef hat and apron on ...

Allow fish to reach at or near room temperature. Right before prepping fish, pre-heat grill or broiler; for the former, use medium-high heat with the hood up, and for the latter, set your oven or convection to broil, taking care to use a broil pan and not to set the grate too close to the heating element.

Coat fish with olive oil on both sides, then sprinkle the salt, pepper and chipotle on the steaks, making sure you lightly rub the spices in also on both sides. When the grill or oven is ready, place fish on.




















GRILL:
Keep an eye on it, grilling each side for 5 minutes (thick pieces will vary and will need a little longer). For perpendicular grill marks, subtract a minute from the first two flips and arrange the fish the opposite orientation, allowing another 1-2 minutes on each side again.

BROIL:
Fish will cook in 8-10 minutes, and with a broiling pan there is no need to flip. Take care to make sure there is no sticking, periodically checking the steaks with a metal spatula.

When fish is done, remove from heat and let sit for a moment. Chop parsley (YES, wait until the last minute, you want to wait to release the flavors until right when you're ready for them). Plate fish and lightly top with the parsley, then squeeze a little lime juice atop each steak. Enjoy with a salad, potatoes, pasta, vegetables, and/or bread. For a drink, try a a cold white wine, a deep red wine, iced tea or a cold light-to-medium bodied beer.

Tonight's music: Remain In Light by Talking Heads

Technology Tip: Takin' the weekend off ...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This is a great dish that is easy and fits nicely as a side item to many entrees. Let's get right to it.

The spices here are simple, but yield a lot of flavor. If you're feeling adventurous, you could also add a 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a dash coriander to create a more pronounced sweet-savory dish. Doing so is a nice side item to spicy entrees such as jerk chicken or fish.


INGREDIENTS
- Two medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 F (or, use the broil setting if desired). Wash and prepare potatoes, making sure to remove any stubborn eyes while peeling. Cube and place in a shallow baking/roasting pan, tossing to coat in olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook for 20-25 minutes, checking occasionally to give them a toss with a spatula. Potatoes will brown when finished, and should be tender. Top lightly with chopped parsley and serve with main dish(es).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackened Mahi-Mahi

Mahi-mahi is one of the easier skin-on fillets to work with, and it also has a mild flavor that makes it a good candidate for lots of different spice treatments. Here I give a SWEET, simple blackening.

This dish is a good accompaniment to roasted potatoes (red, russet or sweet), shellfish, and salads -- in fact, the mahi could go IN the salad if you really wanted ...

This makes enough for a large fillet (enough for two, or for one with leftovers).



INGREDIENTS

- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turbinado sugar
- 1/4 (or to taste) cayenne, ground chipotle or crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 or 2 dashes kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove (minced)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

You know what to do ... tunes, drink, et al ...

First, set the fish out to start climbing toward room temperature. Get ingredients out and gather pots, cooking tools/utensils, etc., together. Double-check this recipe -- you got everything? Take a drink ... all good? All right then ... put on your apron and get to work.

Combine paprika, sugar, pepper (cayenne, chipotle or red), thyme, oregano salt and black pepper in a small bowl. You will use this to rub the fish. Mix well and reserve.

Prep garlic and heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat (if you don't have one, use a regular medium or large skillet). Add garlic and saute until golden-brown (don't burn it A-hole!).

While the garlic and butter do their thing, put the rub on the fish, dusting it over and gently massaging it into the flesh.

When it's done, discard the garlic and add the butter to the skillet, heating it until the foam dissipates. Then add the fish, cooking 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Use a slotted metal spatula to turn and remove fish when done, placing it on a plate covered with a paper towel -- this will soak any excess oil. Then plate the fish, topping lightly with chopped parsley and adding whatever side dishes you've prepared :)


Tonight's music: I Feel For You by Chaka Khan and Strange Mercy by St. Vincent.

Technology Tip: For ALL important documents you will want/need to keep long-term: back them up twice, then print out a hard copy. This goes for photos too -- and for those pictures that are really special: in addition to backing them up, have them printed. You can either display them in a frame, or place them in an envelope for safe keeping. Most photo services on the Web (Flickr, Shutterfly, etc.) offer printing services, as do many desktop and mobile apps -- and, you can also take photos on disc, flash drive, etc., to Target, Wal-mart, or a local photo lab to have them printed. Tangibility is paramount here -- there is no replacement for what you have in the physical world. Make it REAL, you will be glad you did!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Easy Great Guacamole

Aren't avocados great?

Here is a simple recipe you can use to make your own. While there are a few pre-made varieties that get the job done, there is nothing quite like being able to whip up your own.

Let's do this thing ...


INGREDIENTS

- Two ripe avocados (ripeness is determined by gently squeezing the fruit -- if they are soft to the touch, they are ready. If you feel you could practically put your thumb through the skin, then they are REALLY ready)
- One clove garlic (more if you love it)
- A few shakes of your favorite hot sauce
- A few freshly-cut lime or lemon wedges
- A dash of kosher salt

First, peel and core the avocado. Using a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise around the circumference of the fruit. Twist to separate the halves, and stick the knife's blade lengthwise into the pit. Twist to remove. TO DISPOSE OF PIT: use the edge of a bowl, counter, trash can, etc., to separate it from the knife's blade. DO NOT use your hands, as you may well give yourself a fine cut.

Next, peel avocados and place in a medium-sized bowl. Mince garlic and add to bowl. Then, squeeze in the citrus juice, add hot sauce and the salt. Using a fork or spoon, mash ingredients together until proper consistency is achieved. Transfer to a more presentable receptacle if desired, and enjoy with plantain chips, tortilla chips, on a taco, in a burrito, on a sandwich, etc. :)

More technology tips SOON ...

Fried Plantain Chips

Try this instead of potato or tortilla chips! It's easy too.

As some of you probably know, plantains are a type of banana indigenous to southeast Asia, Oceania and northern Australia. They are larger, firmer and contain less sugar than their better-known, smaller counterparts that some of us eat at breakfast. The plantain is, however, a versatile food that can be prepared a variety of different ways and for a variety of different meals, from breakfast to lunch to dinner to dessert.

While it is fairly exotic here in north America, it is a common food many other places in the world.

INGREDIENTS

- 1 plantain (more if you're cooking for a group). Many modern grocery stores stock them, though you can likely find them in many different world market stores. Ripeness is important -- if a plantain is soft and malleable to the touch, then it is very ripe and best used for something sweet. Find one that is firm to the touch (indicating the early stages of ripeness).
- 1/2 cup cooking oil - I suggest peanut oil, but vegetable works as well. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to tweak the oil amount. Use your best judgement, just remember that too much oil can make things overly greasy, and too little will result in burning the fruit.
- Kosher salt (to taste)

First, place oil in skillet and begin to heat. Ultimately it should heat to medium-high, or until you can flick a few drops of water at it and hear it crack. DO NOT turn the burner up too high, else you may have an oil fire on your hands.

Next, skin the plantain. This is easily done by first taking a sharp knife and cutting the fruit in half (pictured below):
















Next, make a shallow cut lengthwise down the side of the skin. You should then be able to use your hands to slowly pull it off the fruit. Take care not to damage the fruit. Repeat process for the other half. When you're finished, thinly slice the plantain as pictured:
















Take your time, you don't want the slices to be too thick. Making them thin ensures crispness when fried.
















When the oil is ready, gently place the sliced plantains in it (take care not to get splashed with hot oil), using a metal spatula to make sure they don't stick together. Work them in batches (a single plantain usually fries in two batches), turning as needed and removing them when they are golden brown. Try one to make sure they are getting nice and crisp:
















As they get done, transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up excess oil. When they are all cooked, turn off the burner. Transfer plantain chips to a bowl or plate. Add a light coating of kosher salt and toss to coat. If you're keen to add some different spices, go for it! OR, they make a great accompaniment to guacamole:
















Check out this month's recipe for Easy Great Guacamole for a great, simple recipe.

Since this is such a quick recipe, I'll save music and technology for the next larger one!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bloody Mary

Happy New Year!

For the beginning of a new year, let me present a simple and brilliant cocktail: Bloody Mary :)

If you order this out, then you'll get whatever the barkeep makes up ... it could be good or it could just be acceptable. And that is all good -- but if you're at home, why not make your own? It's actually easy, whether or not you start with a mix.

So, I'll offer a recipe for those who have a favorite mix as well as those who would rather make their own.

Let's do this thing ...




INGREDIENTS

- Bloody Mary Mix (your fave, if you're not making your own)
- Vodka (your fave -- and don't waste time with cheap liquor ... make it count, because you don't want to feel bad later ... quality stuff will make you feel GOOD in the proper proportions)
- Tabasco sauce (or whatever you prefer)
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Celery to garnish

If you're making your own mix from scratch (this makes enough for a double drink):

- 1 and 1/2 cups tomato juice
- A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground horseradish

... mix it up ...

Let's make a double: fill a pint glass (English or American) with ice, then the mix. Add two shots of vodka, a few dashes of Tabasco (to your taste, don't overdo it because the salt content could get overwhelming), a couple quick grinds from the pepper mill, and a rinsed celery stalk. Stir it up, additionally garnish with a green olive if you're inclined, and enjoy ... :)


Happy New Year