Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spicy Garlic Chard with Fried Eggs

This dish is so simple, but depends on the quality of the ingredients to really shine. What you need to make it right are really good eggs and really good bread. If you don't have a source for eggs from chickens that run around your mother's yard like I do, at least buy some cage-free eggs, preferably even organic. Next, you need some wonderfully crusty bread with a silky, chewy interior (Like Iggy's or Orchard Hill Bread). Full ingredient list is: garlic, dried chili peppers, olive oil, chard, eggs, bread, salt and pepper. I like red chard or rainbow chard, but green chard works just as well, although not as pretty. I started making this after asking my mom for ideas to use some chard, and she suggested this family recipe going back a couple generations to my farming great-grandparents. I've modified the spicy part to fit my pantry and personal taste..

Here's how to make it for two people. Use a large skillet, and cover bottom with olive oil. Drop 2 tien tsin peppers or 3-4 arbol peppers in the oil and heat over medium heat until peppers darken. Discard peppers. Add to oil one large clove of garlic, minced. Shake pan for a minute or so, but do not let garlic brown too much. Next, add in about a half dozen large stalks of chard, the leaves chopped into wide ribbons, the stalks thinly sliced, so it will all cook evenly. Turn the chard in the oil and garlic with tongs, and stir occasionally over medium-low heat until wilted down and tender, while doing this, sprinkle in a pinch or two of salt. When chard is almost completely tender, push the chard to the outer sides of the pan into a ring. Add a little more olive oil, so that the eggs don't stick (skip this if using a nonstick pan). Have two eggs in one cup and two eggs in another cup. Simultaneously, pour the eggs into the pan so the eggs land evenly in the center of the pan. Drop heat to low and cook to until whites are set, but the yolks are still runny. Divide pan down the middle and slide onto two plates. Sprinkle a little salt atop eggs, add some fresh ground black pepper and serve with the good bread.

This recipe uses about half a bunch of chard by grocery store standards. Use the other half in this soup.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tomato Salad with Bariani Olive Oil and Maine Sea Salt

A satisfying Sunday afternoon refresher. Perfectly red vine-ripened tomato. Unctuous, peppery olive oil. Crunchy salt. Bright and strong basil.

As delightful as a tomato at the pinnacle of ripeness is, especially with the addition of grown-by-Matt-in-the-windowsill basil, what makes this salad/snack shine is the proper selection of the olive oil and the salt. Options abound. I want to share with you my choices:

Bariani Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Maine Sea Salt. The Bariani, I get at the Walpole Grocery at Burdick's in Walpole, NH. The Maine Sea Salt I picked up in a random shop in Bar Harbor, ME. But both can be ordered online.

If you're looking for a special olive oil, the Bariani is great for any raw olive oil application, from drizzling on vegetables or blending with a vinegar or lemon juice for salad dressings. I would never use this olive oil in cooked applications, because it is too expensive to allow heat to kill its nuances.

Until I started using the Maine Sea Salt, I thought that a good kosher salt would suit my needs anytime. The Maine Sea Salt has a delightful crunchiness, and the flavor has a clean saltiness, like breathing in the salt air on a clear day on the Maine coast. I use the Maine Sea Salt on vegetables and fruit, and raw salads of all sorts. I wouldn't put into pasta water or bake with it, for it is too crunchy and too distinctive to work in dishes like that.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shrimp and Pea Risotto

Another freezer/pantry dinner satisfying beyond the expectations of its humble origins. The peas and shrimp give this dish a freshness and a sweetness, that it feels impossible that the only item requiring recent purchase is the parsley. And if I didn't have the parsley already in the fridge and wasn't going to the store, I'd leave out the parsley in a second.

For two people~
From the freezer: 4 cups lobster stock (from the shells of our lobster rolls last week), 18 raw medium shrimp, 1/2 cup peas
From the pantry: 3/4 cup carnaroli rice, half a medium onion, 1 TBS olive oil
From the fridge: 1/4 cup white wine, 3 TBS butter, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano, 2 TBS chopped parsley

If you don't have lobster stock (and really, if you didn't have lobster shells leftover from a lobster dinner....who does?), use a very light chicken or vegetable stock cut with water 1:1. You don't want a strong chicken flavor in this, you want the stock/broth to be very light. Any seafood stock would work too, if you had made some from shrimp shells and/or fish bones.

Also, I use carnaroli rice for my risotti, which can be found in most specialty Italian groceries, but of course arborio, available at the supermarket, is good too.

Bring the lobster stock to a simmer. Shell the shrimp (put shells in the freezer for stock-making in the future). Cook shrimp for about 2 minutes (until pink, curled and tender). Remove shrimp from stock with a slotted spoon. When shrimp are cool, cut into bite-sized pieces. Put lid on lobster stock and turn off heat.

Finely chop the onion. Melt 1 1/2 TBS of butter and the TBS of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add rice and stir around for a few minutes to toast the rice. Add wine, stir and cook until evaporated.

Add a couple ladles of the warm stock. Stirring regularly, when the stock has mostly evaporated, add more, stirring frequently, if not constantly at times. Continue this until the rice is al dente (if running low on stock, add water, bring back to a simmer, then turn off heat again). The process of adding stock and stirring should take about 30 minutes, maybe less, maybe more. When the rice is to your liking, stir in peas, stir for about 30 seconds, until peas have thawed. Turn off heat. Add shrimp, remaining 1 1/2 TBS butter, parmigiano and parsley. Stir until butter is melted into rice and other ingredients well-distributed. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cannellini Bean and Chard Soup

This soup is hearty and perfect for cold and gray rainy days. It also is pantry-friendly and tastes like it took much more than only 20 minutes to make. Earlier in the week I made eggs with spicy, garlicky chard (recipe to come!). I had a few stalks of the chard leftover, pancetta and chicken stock in the freezer, a can of cannellini beans in the pantry, and some fresh oregano in the herb pot Matt tends for me on the windowsill. The following recipe makes enough soup for two people when put out with a crusty bread for dipping.

I defrosted 2 cups of chicken broth in the microwave. You can also use broth from a can or box (Swanson's or Imagine are my preferred brands, low sodium on both). Another great thing to keep in the freezer are slices of pancetta. I get about a half dozen 1/4 inch slices at the deli every couple months. I individually plastic wrap each one and put into a bag in the freezer. With a good sharp knife, it is easy to cut the frozen pancetta.

So, small dice a 1/4" thick slice of pancetta. In a 3 quart pot, cook the pancetta over medium heat until rendered and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside in a small bowl. Leave the rendered fat in the pot.

Next, add half a medium-small onion, finely chopped. Cook in the pancetta fat over medium heat until softened. Then, add a small clove of garlic, minced. Stir for about 30 seconds, do not let it brown. Pour in two cups of broth and one cup of water. Bring to a simmer.

Take a few leaves of chard off of the stems and ribs and chop the leaves into strips (I like red chard when I can get it, but regular chard would work just as well). If you want you can very, very thinly slice the stems and add those too. Drain and rinse a can of cannellini beans, and divide in half (save the other half in the fridge or freezer to make a quick bean and tuna spread later in the week). Add the half can of beans and chard to the simmering broth. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, add a few inch sprig's worth of chopped fresh oregano or thyme (no fresh herbs? add a 1/2 tsp of dried oregano or thyme with garlic before adding broth). Season with a few grinds of black pepper. If you used store bought stock, you will not want to add salt. But if you are using homemade chicken broth and like me, keep the salt low for more flexibility in later will want to add maybe a 1/2 tsp of salt.

Serve with chewy crusty bread for dipping. Sprinkle the soup with reserved pancetta or freshly grated parmigiano, or both, or neither. If not using either topping, maybe add another 1/2 tsp of salt to the pot before serving.

Obviously the little bit of pancetta doesn't make this a *healthy* soup. But it is a very small amount of cured pork, and the beans and chard are very good for you, as is homemade chicken broth.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Good Black Box Wines

Last summer I tried out Black Box Wine on the suggestion of my mother. The cabernet sauvignon and the pinot grigio have become my table wines. The merlot is good too and I hear the chardonnay is nice, although I'm not into chards.

Until this spring/summer, those were the only options available at my liquor store. Luckily, the selections have grown. I now have two new favorites: sauvignon blanc and shiraz. I may go back to the pinot grigio in the winter, but right now the sauvignon blanc is perfect for summer. The cabernet and the shiraz are both California coast, the pinot grigio is Italian, and the sauvignon blanc is a great example from New Zealand of what that country produces in this grape.

At $19 for a box which equals 4 bottles...very nice.

For my friends in NH....I hear black box is around $10 more expensive up there than here in Massachusetts. My sister also reports a $19 box in Brattleboro, VT. If you are driving through MA or VT, you should load up whilst there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sausages with Peppers, Onions and Mushrooms

I love this comfort classic. Along with stuffed shells, I made this the first time I cooked for Matt. In addition to a few other dishes over the past couple years, the evidence of its awesomeness is the ring on my left hand. I started making this years ago for myself because it makes wonderful leftovers, and freezes great. This recipe is my version of a Lidia Bastianich recipe and serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers).

You want about a pound and a half of sausage total. These days, if you buy your sausage from a butcher or quality meat counter, they are much longer than the classic 5 inch link that you still see in packages in grocery stores. American super-sizing.... Anyways, I get my sausages at Whole Foods, and for this dish I get the Hot Italian variety, but using the Sweet Italian would be great too. I wait until they are on sale at $2.99/lb and then I load up the freezer. Truly, you can make this dish with any type of sausage. I once used some wonderful rabbit sausages from the Burdick Grocery in Walpole, NH. So yummy, but so out of my budget these days. If you are going to use a non-pork sausage, be sure it has a high fat content (of added pork fat or otherwise). If the sausages are not fatty enough, they will dry out in the oven.

Other than the sausage you'll need 8 cloves of garlic, 2 onions, about 8 ounces of white button mushrooms, 2 red peppers and 4-5 cubanelle peppers (also known as Italian frying peppers). Use the flat side of your knife and the heel of your hand atop it to whack the garlic to crush it a little and get the skin off. I've been using this knife method all my life, since watching my mother do it. However, I've recently discovered equally successful results by pounding my olive oil cruet atop the cloves. Onions get sliced in one-inch thick slices, as do the peppers. Mushrooms get quartered (or halved if really small).

This is sort of an assembly-line cooking situation. If you are in a rush, you can prep each ingredient while the previous one is cooking, but I prefer to prep everything, and then leisurely cook everything while sipping some wine or a refreshing orange juice with seltzer. It feels civilized.

So, take out your big skillet (regular, not nonstick). Pour in a couple TBS of olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Prick the sausages all over with a fork and brown in pan for about 10 minutes, turning a few times to brown them all over. Half way through cooking the sausages, add the garlic, turning frequently until golden brown. Transfer sausages and garlic to a large, deep baking dish. Leave oil in pan.

Add onions to pan and cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, but still a bit crisp. Transfer onions to baking dish with sausages and garlic. Add mushrooms to pan, and cook for about 4-5 minutes until browned and transfer to baking dish. Add a little extra olive oil to the pan (the mushrooms will have soaked up most of what was left after the onions), and add the peppers. Cook for about 7-8 minutes stirring frequently, until slightly wilted, but still a bit crisp and add to baking dish.

Put baking dish, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, tossing vegetables and turning sausages every ten minutes. Eat straight up with a good crusty bread on the side to dip in the olive oil and vegetable juicy goodness or make grinders with a nice roll. Obviously, this dish is easily shrinkable or expandable. But unless you don't like having an easy dinner in the freezer, it is usually worth making the whole thing, even for one person. If you prefer yellow peppers to red or don't like mushrooms, this is also very customizable. If you are thinking of substituting mushroom varieties, I have found that white button mushrooms are sturdier than criminis/baby bellas and better maintain a separate flavor from the other ingredients. The criminis and such work fine if that's what you have on hand, but they are too delicate to bring the same earthy punch in this dish.

This dish also holds pretty well. You can make a double batch if you have company coming over and serve at room temperature (summer room temp, not winter room temp) or reheat gently in a 200 degree oven. If you have frozen a portion or two, put on a plate and defrost and then reheat in the microwave. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mom's Tomato Sauce....the last sauce you'll ever need

Time to share my mother's sauce recipe! This is my every day go-to sauce. Thanks to mom for giving me permission to share her recipe. I use this sauce for pasta and pizza, and anything else.

The ingredient list is simple: olive oil, onion, garlic, dried basil, tomato puree. The most important thing is purchasing the correct tomato puree. Most tomato purees are actually tomato paste and water. Not good. Make sure you read the label, and the ingredient list says tomatoes, not concentrate. OR, just buy what I do : Pastene brand tomato puree. Be sure not to mistakenly get tomato sauce, or "kitchen-ready" ground tomatoes. You want puree.

Take out your big pot.

Pour in enough olive oil to make a thin coating on the bottom of the pan ( a TBS or two).

Finely chop a medium onion, put in pot, add a big pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Do not brown/caramelize the onions, if they start to brown, drop the heat.

Add two fat garlic cloves, minced finely. More or less depending on how into garlic you are.
Add a palmful of dried basil. I know, your palm is different than my palm, but it is probably close to about 1 1/2 TBS to 2 TBS. This isn't science, this is jazz, deal with it.

Stir basil and garlic around in the cooked onions until fragrant. You add the basil now because it is fat-soluble, and you want it to mix around in the oil to release all of the flavors.

Lower the heat so you don't get too many splatters of tomato puree and then pour in a 28 ounce can of tomato puree. Rinse out can with water, and pour in about a half a can of water/rinsed tomato puree.

Bring sauce to a simmer, and allow to simmer, uncovered, over very low heat for about 20-30 minutes, until the consistency is that of sauce. Stir occasionally during simmering.

Pause to enjoy how insanely awesome your house smells.

Use sauce immediately, or let cool and put into small containers. Will keep about a week in the fridge, and it freezes brilliantly. I like to put all of it in the freezer in 1/2 cup containers, so I can take out as much or as little as I need. You'll get a generous 3 and 1/2 cups of sauce from this recipe.

This sauce is good for pasta as well pizza, and pretty much any other application that calls for a simple, classic tomato sauce. In addition to being so versatile, it is also easily replicable. A couple years ago I was the dinner guest of my friend Kathy. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had given Kathy her sauce recipe back when Kathy and my sister were roommates. I sat down to a spaghetti dinner, and could have sworn it was my mother's sauce...just a little different. Kathy let me know that it WAS my mother's sauce, but with a little basil pesto stirred into it before saucing the pasta. A truly excellent idea, Kathy.

If you will be using the sauce for pasta, use as is. If you are putting it on pizza, sprinkle on a little dried oregano. Swirl in olive tapenade or pesto for an extra fun sauce for either pizza or pasta. Sprinkle in a little red pepper flake to make it spicy for pizza or pasta. Use the sauce for baked pasta dishes too. Keep small containers of it in the freezer and heat up in the microwave to dip crusty bread into for a late night snack. The options are endless.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grape Kabobsicles

A little while ago I saw the idea for these on another food blog. Today was the year-end party for the kids at church, and I wanted to make something summery and sweet, but not a sugar bomb, and preferably healthy. I always loved frozen grapes as a kid, and this seemed to be a user-friendly and quirky way to eat them. I didn't want them too long, so that the littlest ones could manage them, and I needed a way protect the kids from the pointy end of the bamboo skewer.

Not too long was easily solved with the purchase of shorter bamboo skewers. I originally thought to use cork to protect the tip, but I couldn't find the right size in the right quantity anywhere. Then my mother imagined up a great, and inexpensive way. After threading the grapes onto the skewer, push them to the opposite end of the skewer from the point. Next, using sharp scissors, clip off the point of the skewer, and then wrap the end with brightly colored tape.

If you're going to make them, a couple tips. Remove the grapes from the stems first and put them loose in a bowl. This makes threading faster, for you can just grab a grape and not have to pop it off the stem at the same time. Make sure the grapes are VERY dry before putting into the freezer. Put a single layer of the kabobsicles on a baking sheet, and then place in a freezer. In a couple hours, you'll have frozen kabobsicles. At this point you can put them into a plastic bag for easy storage. If you have older kids who can safely thread kabobs without risking injury from the pint, this is a great task to delegate for their own party. The ones I saw in the other food bog had about a dozen grapes to a kabob. With five grapes to a kabob, they all stay frozen as you eat, and you can eat slower. Most were happy with one, although some kids and adults had two kabobsicles. One of the girls today suggested putting pineapple on the kabobsicle as well. I'm not sure what frozen pineapple is like, but I'm going to try that next!

The kabobsicles were a big hit with the kids, and the adults like them too. I'm going to keep some in the freezer for those insanely humid and hot summer days and I want something cool, sweet and refreshing that doesn't ruin my appetite for dinner.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Prosciutto and Cacio di Roma Pizza

So now that I've become accustomed to the brick oven pizza set up....making pizza is once again an exciting and creative endeavor, and I'm having fun inventing new pizzas. This week at Whole Foods, cacio di roma cheese was on sale at a serious discount. If this is a new cheese to you, check it out. It is sheep's milk, creamy and tangy; the cheese is produced traditionally in Lazio, and is considered a "table" cheese since it is ubiquitous in Central and Southern Italy. It is semi-firm like mozzarella, and so good for melting with pasta, on a pizza, but is also good for snacking with jam. The tang is very specific, yet does not offend.

So, a couple ounces of cacio di roma. What else....big onions! Yes I probably overuse these in my panini and pizza...but they are sooooo gooooood. And different every time depending on what beer I use. They make such a good base for a pizze bianche (white pizzas...i.e. no red sauce). The reason they make a good base is not just their tangy taste, but the evaporated beer makes them into almost an onion jam, and they spread so well on the pizza dough, and have just enough juiciness.

Alright...a very present, but not overpowering tangy sheep's milk cheese, sweet and tangy robustly flavored brown ale beer-melized more thing....something salty, soft...

So perhaps this was a cop-out too, but I haven't splurged on prosciutto in awhile (although truly 3 slices is about a $1.50). The thing about prosciutto is that it goes on top of the pizza hot out of the oven. If the prosciutto cooked with the pizza, you'd get prosciutto chips. Not bad, but not the unctuous mouth feel concept I was going for with the onions and cacio di roma atop a crispy chewy pizza crust.

The first photograph is with only two prosciutto slices so you can see what just the cheese and onions looked like, before I put the third slice on. You want to layer on the prosciutto slices while the pizza is still steaming hot, it helps adhere the proscioutto to the rest of the pizza.

I love the detail I get with our new camera yay for 10 mega pixels! I just realized that since the cacio di roma was on sale, this entire pizza, crust and toppings (which fed the two of us for lunch) cost less than $5. Feeling pretty good about that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gorgonzola and Green Grape Chicken Salad

Super delicious quick lunch from leftovers of a roasted chicken.

Stir together in a bowl: 1/3 cup mayonnaise (or combo of greek yogurt and mayo), a couple teaspoons of rice vinegar, and 1/4 cup of Gorgonzola crumbles.

Dice up one large chicken breast and two ribs of celery. Take a couple handfuls of green grapes and slice in half. Mince up a tablespoon of parsley. Combine all ingredients, season with fresh ground black pepper, stir to distribute dressing. Chop up a 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts and sprinkle on top.

Spoon onto a bed of lettuce, and eat lunch!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brick Oven Pizza

Yes, brick oven pizza. Thin-crust, brick oven pizza. In our apartment! In an apartment-sized oven. Results: A perfectly crisp, sturdy crust, slightly blackened on the bottom, nice and chewy within. Back in March I saw a video on making a brick oven in your regular oven for pizza making. Since we are big pizza fans, and there was a touch of "construction" involved, Matt was excited as I was to try this. Fast forward to last month, we went out and purchased firebrick (less than $25), lined the oven, and saw the oven thermometer's needle get buried past 600 degrees, when the oven was technically set to 500 degrees. Three pizza margheritas and one pizza sacrificed to the oven gods later (should have checked the width of the pizza peel before shoving it into the oven...and that boys and girls is how you get pizza burned to the floor of the oven and smoke alarms going off...), I have mastered the new addition to our kitchen.

Matt's friend Roger (the most gracious house guest anyone could ask for) was visiting this week, and having a couple men to cook for created an excuse to make three different types of pizza in the brick oven. To start, we had a classic pizza margherita with red sauce, fresh basil from the pot Matt has going in the windowsill, and fresh mozzarella. Next up was my favorite of the night: green apples, homebrewed Irish Red beer-melized onions, mozzarella and gorgonzola. The final pizza was a favorite with Matt and Roger; it was a perfect combination of red sauce, spicy sopresatta and mozzarella. In the photograph is the sopresatta pizza whole, and the stragglers are one piece of pizza margherita, and two slices of the green apples and beer-melized onion pizza. One perk of the brick oven set-up is that instead of 10-12 minutes for a pizza, you can cook one in about 5-6 minutes. This is great when doing different kinds of pizza, because they come out of the oven in rapid succession, so you can have more than one kind on the table at a time.

Why line your oven with firebrick and crank the oven for an hour before cooking? Because you get a pizza unlike anything you've had at home, even on a pizza stone. When you can't or don't want to go out for brick oven pizza, you can have something almost exactly like it at home, and you know exactly what is in it! The next question is...what kind of amazing bread crusts could I coax from the brick oven with the right bread recipe?

Pizza dough recipe and red sauce recipe are both my mother's, but they'll be a post for another day...need to keep you coming back to read more!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brew Day Dinner

A couple times a month my kitchen is transformed into Stone Mountain Brewery. Matt labors away for about 7 hours to create wonderful handcrafted beers for us (today he brewed a saison, now that summer is upon us). The man deserves a tasty meal afterwards.

The catch is...I must make that meal with only a little counter space, and without the stove or oven. Naturally, sandwiches or boring salads make frequent appearances. Not tonight!

Last night I made a London Broil, and having leftovers is half the reason to make a London Broil. Slice up the leftover steak and arrange over a bed of lettuce. Add some diced red pepper and celery, and some chopped toasted walnuts (I recently learned that you can toast nuts in the microwave!). Some blue cheese dressing ties everything together (walnuts/celery/steak and blue cheese...all classic pairings).

From now on I think I will always have leftover London Broil on Brew Days!

(the beer in the tulip glass is Matt's aka Stone Mountain Brewery's flagship Brown Ale)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fall Off the Bone Ribs....without a grill.

Someday we will have a house, with a yard, and in that yard will be an awesome grill/smoker where we can do barbecue properly and frequently. However, in the meantime, we have no yard and no deck. I do some "grilling" on my grill pan (although it is most often pressed into service for panini), and of course smoking is out of the question. But Matt really wanted to do ribs. And I wanted the ribs to be as close to properly done ribs as possible.

So, after consulting a gajillion recipes, one satisfactory albeit disappointing attempt and soliciting advice from a couple of Matt's friends (thanks John and Mark)...I have created fall off the bone bbq ribs from our oven. And it is insanely simple.

Equipment needed: foil, rimmed baking sheet, basting brush
Ingredients: one (1 1/2 to 2 pound) rack of ribs (baby or St. Louis, your call), bbq rub, bbq sauce (preferably complementary rub and sauce)

Turn on the oven to 300. Line the baking sheet with foil (I was stupid and did not do this originally, so my awesome fiance was scrubbing the baking sheet all night). Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs (get it started by wiggling your index finger under it and then pull like mad) Liberally rub in bbq rub on both sides of the rack of ribs. Place on foil lined baking sheet. Cover with foil, sealing the edges around the baking sheet, but leaving air around the ribs.

Place in oven for 3 hours. Remove from oven, remove foil tent, and then baste with bbq sauce on both sides. Return to oven, uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Eat them. Maybe with more sauce if you're like Matt.

Don't know what to do for a bbq rub and sauce? Well, if you want a sauce you can get at the grocery store, try either Sweet Baby Ray's or Bone Suckin' Sauce. Buy a bbq rub or make one (the internet is full of suggestions).
We used the most amazing rub and sauce combination from our favorite bbq place down in Anna Maria Island, Florida. The restaurant is called Mr. Bones BBQ and they sell their rub and sauce retail. You can also mail order it from them here. We like the hot version, it is spicy but not overpowering.

Truly you could use any flavor profile on these ribs and make your own rub and sauce. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brie and Black Forest Ham Panini

A new panini has entered the roster. I felt this week at the store that I relied too much on munster and fontina for my panini, in addition to pantry items. Not that I won't continue making my workhorse panini, but change is good! A change with a double-creme cheese is really good! So, I picked up some basic brie and a nitrate-free Black Forest Ham.

A couple slices of Italian Bread, a generous slather of a spicy whole grain mustard (I used Whole Foods 365 brand "German Mustard", a layer of brie slices, and a couple folded slices of glorious Black Forest Ham.

And stay tuned for the Fall-Off-The-Bone oven-cooked ribs!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Green Apple Risotto with Bacon

I'm Back! Things are finally calming down some from an insanely busy year of work and the blog is back! I'm very appreciative of all of you who expressed interest that I bring it back sooner than now. Thanks for your support and love...I hope you enjoy the new posts!

Last night my facebook status let folks know I was making this for dinner. Lots of you asked for the recipe. At the end of the post, I've made a vegetarian suggestion to dress up the risotto without bacon, although I haven't field tested it myself.

The Green Apple Risotto is something I've been making for years (adapted a bit) from a Mario Batali recipe. For whatever reason, I hadn't made risotto for Matt yet (he still loves most everything I make, and just in case he had texture issues with risotto as some people do, I didn't want to risk it). A week ago I made him a saffron and shrimp risotto, and he was hooked. Thank God!

Matt also loves bacon (if you eat pork, who doesn't?). Since pork and apples are such a classic pair, I thought it would work. And it does wonderfully....the risotto has a rich mouthfeel, but a light taste, and then the contrasting bacon adds a crunchy, meaty saltiness.

Here's the recipe as the main dish for two.

Cook 6 slices of bacon. Crumble. Set Aside.

In a large skillet or wide-bottom saucier melt/heat: 1 TBS Olive Oil, I TBS Unsalted Butter.

Add, cook until softened: Red Onion, half a medium one, finely chopped.

Add and toast/cook for a few minutes: 3/4 cup Arborio Rice, 1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored,and sliced 1/8" thick.

Add and cook until absorbed/evaporated: 1/2 cup Dry White Wine (last night I used Black Box Pinot Grigio).

So here's what lots of people think of as the "scary" part about risotto. Honestly, it is what I love. You have to stay at the stove for about a half hour. It is the same reason I like ironing. You cannot do anything else. Other than maybe having a phone conversation or listening to the Red Sox make stupid mistakes and fall behind, you can't really multi-task while making risotto.

You will need about about 4 cups of Broth or Stock. I use homemade stock that has very little salt in it. If you do not have any homemade stock, use a low sodium broth, or better yet a 3 parts low sodium broth 1 part water mix. For store-bought broths I like the Imagine brand (low sodium vegetable broth) or Swansons (low sodium chicken).

So, while you were prepping and beginning to cook the risotto, bring the stock to a simmer in a separate pot, and keep warm over a very low heat. After you have cooked off the wine, start adding ladles of the stock. Add enough stock to just cover rice. Cook over medium-high heat and stir constantly. When stock has been almost completely absorbed, add another ladle or two of stock. Continue process until rice is creamy, but individual grains are al dente. This will take about 25-35 minutes, less if you like your rice to have more of a bite. I prefer this risotto the Venetian way: all'onda, which means wavy. The rice is still a little moist and appears like waves in the dish, as opposed to the Milanese way, which is a tighter, more compact dish. Try it both ways and see which you like!

So, once you have your risotto at your preferred level of doneness,turn off the heat and stir in: 1 TBS butter, 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano, and a couple TBS of finely chopped parsley

Mound the risotto onto warmed plates and sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top. Enjoy the silky, slightly sweet, but definitely savory rice, and the crunchy salty gift from heaven that is bacon.

For my vegetarian friends, use vegetable broth and some chopped pecans. I think pecans are an equally classic pairing with apples. If you try it, let me know how it comes out!