Thursday, December 31, 2009

cran-o-mite



  • 1 bottle of good quality vodka, chilled in freezer for at least a few hours
  • 1/2 bottle of triple sec
  • 1 1/2 bottles of clear cranberry juice
  • 1 bag cranberries

Combine the vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice in a large container; shake to mix. Pour the bag of cranberries into mixture; they will float on the top. Serve in low ball glasses and garnish with lime and fresh mint if desired.

The dish: Retailers often get a bad rap around Christmas for their role in commercializing the Holiday. While this is most certainly true, the good news is that every year, like clockwork, they're there to remind us to spend some time with our family and friends. I'm not always good with routines, and the reinforcement of seeing trees and hearing carols in every store I walk into is all I need to get in the spirit. The non-commercial side of the season is up to each of us. This year, Kim and I decided to throw a last minute Christmas party for our friends. The shindig was only a conversation 48 hours prior to it being in full swing, but that didn't stop it from it being a success. All told we had about 45 or so people in our place, and everybody seemed to have a blast. We had plenty of good food and drink, including this cheerful cocktail. The cool dispenser was found in Kmart for about $7, but just a plain old pitcher would work fine. I think we started an annual tradition, not only for the party itself, but also for this cool drink. Next year please try to take a break from stomping other folks for tomorrow's obsolete electronics or standing in line to buy the hottest fashions with slavery stitched into them, and have a drink with those who matter to you. The stores will take of the carols and the decor, the heavy lifting is up to us. Whenever you're reading this, I hope your next Christmas is joyful and filled with moments that will become happy memories.

Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail



  • frozen cooked shrimp, peeled with tails on
  • prepared cocktail sauce
  • tomato juice
  • vodka (I used Bakon)
  • celery stalks
  • green olives
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine

Let shrimp thaw in the refrigerator. Boil equal parts tomato juice and vodka for 5 minutes. Pour juice over the shrimp and stir in parsley, marinate for no more than 20 minutes. Drain and discard the marinade. Best served in a large Martini glass with the shrimp built on the sauce. Garnish with celery and skewered olives.

The dish: There's an old saying that says "there's and ass for every seat". No matter how outlandish a product may seem, somebody somewhere will buy it. When I first heard of Bakon vodka I wondered what type of person would buy such a product, and yet knew that I was whatever type it was. I bought it not to drink, but rather to cook with. As part of a Bloody Mary type marinade it works great without being overpowering. This is a great way to dress up an ordinary shrimp cocktail and turn it into something of a show piece. Don't be afraid to try this recipe using regular vodka, I'm sure it will work just as well. The large martini glass isn't necessary either, but it really adds to the presentation. The glass can be bought at most craft stores for under $10.

Holiday cheeseball



  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey jack
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • poppy seeds
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • chopped green onions
  • 4 strips good quality bacon

Cook the bacon over a medium flame until done. Pat the grease out using a paper towel and chop into fine pieces. In a large bowl whip together the 4 cheeses and milk. Once blended, stir in the green onions and half the parsley and bacon. When complete, form mix into two large bowls and refrigerate on a plate for at least 1/2 hour. Combine remaining parsley and bacon with poppy seeds and roll ball in mix to evenly coat.

The dish: One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is watching all the available retail space vanish from our otherwise dying mall. Among the "as seen on TV" stores and people peddling skin moisturizers from the Dead Sea is usually a young lady wearing a Santa hat standing behind a tray of cut up processed meats speared with toothpicks. I'm not one to offend by denying those hardworking Hickory Farms folks their gracious generosity, so I've eaten my fair share of pork butt (and leaner turkey pork butt???). It's difficult for me to get that close to edible treats without making a purchase, and I sampled pretty much all the offerings from the farms of hickory. Among my favorite things were the cheeseballs, covered in nuts and colored a slightly disturbing shade of pink. It was a few years ago that I offered to bring an appetizer to my mom's Thanksgiving dinner. I found a recipe for the cheeseball, but was a little nervous to try making it because I was such a fan of the ones that showed up at the mall. I took a chance and decided to give it a go. I was having one of those mornings where I felt I could do anything and the ball-o-cheese I created cemented my resolve that I would never buy another nutty, pink cheese sphere. The ball in the picture above was hurriedly made during a party where we crammed 45 or so folks into our tiny condo. Of the cheeseballs I've made this one is undoubtedly the ugliest, but still tastes way better the one you'd pick up after dodging the guy selling talking fish plaques.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

celery root remoulade


  • celery root
  • prepared horseradish sauce

Peel the skin from the celery root and wipe away any dirt or remains on white flesh. Grate into a large bowl and add horseradish sauce to taste (how clear do you like your sinuses?). I supplemented my store bought sauce with some packets of horsey sauce I had leftover from the last time we got Arby's. This can sit up to a week in the fridge and makes a great topping for a roast beef sandwiches.

The dish: Every now and again we all need a change of scenery to re-charge our batteries. Kim and I recently felt in need of some re-charging and decided to take a night away from home and stay in New Jersey with the intent of watching the sun rise over New York. We stayed at the Jersey City Hyatt which without a doubt is the hotel with the best view of the city. The staff at the hotel couldn't do enough to make us feel welcome and their restaurant, Vu, was outstanding, and not just for its namesake. As supporters of a local farm, we were happy to see that Vu also supports agriculture and features several local items on their menu. Among them was mashed potatoes with celeriac, also known as celery root. Celery root has a distinctive flavor that worked well with the potatoes (but also rocks when raw) and paired well with the veal I enjoyed. It made an already distinctive dish even more so. The texture when grated raw is perfect for the sharp horseradish and turns a plain roast beef sandwich into an occasion. Don't be afraid by its funky appearance, celery root is easy to prepare and tastes like nothing else you've ever had. Oh, so how was that sunrise? We may have gone for some re-charging, but after seeing the sun creep up behind the skyline on that chilly autumn morning, it felt like we were brought back to life.

Swiss chard with golden beets


  • rainbow Swiss chard, rinsed and dried
  • golden beets, greens removed
  • fresh garlic, chopped fine
  • olive oil
  • nutmeg
  • coarse salt
  • fresh pepper

Rinse outside of beets with cold water to remove any surface dirt. Place on baking tray or oven safe dish and drizzle with olive oil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool and simply remove the skin on them by peeling back and gently pulling it off. Cut into bite sized pieces and put aside until you make the chard (they'll keep for about a week in the fridge). Separate the leaves of the chard from the stem. Roughly rip the chard leaves and dice the stem into small pieces. In a large skillet over medium high heat cook garlic in a swirl of oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add a little more oil and cook the chard stems with the garlic until both are just tender, about 3-5 minutes. Begin adding the chard leaves in batches, tossing in the pan to wilt down, adding a little more olive oil when necessary. Add the beets right before the final batch. Once all the chard has wilted remove from heat and season with a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

The dish: An interesting side effect of keeping this blog is whenever I cook I find myself thinking about what I'll write for what I'm preparing. As I made this dish I was thinking back to a post about Ikea and how efficient they are at packaging items. This came to mind because Swiss chard is actually two veggies in one; a leafy green like kale or spinach and a stem like celery. Both have a distinctive taste and unless you want ultra soggy leaves or too crunchy stem they should really be prepared separately. Of course, the Swiss are so good at fitting things in that even their vegetables are double packed. It seemed like a great idea until a few days later when I remembered that Ikea is Swedish and not Swiss (a common mistake?). It didn't really matter though, because the chard and beets tasted great and Kim and I enjoyed all of it. I let our favorite farmers know how well the flavors worked together and they reminded me that I made this dish with more ingredients than necessary, as I could have just cooked the beet greens and had a very similar taste and texture to the chard. It seemed fitting as I had already goofed the blog entry, so why not discard the greens and add some nearly identical greens in their place? In spite of my best efforts to seemingly screw up everything about this dish, it worked out great and the colors of the chard played nicely with the hue of the beets.

spaghetti squash with parsley


  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • butter
  • coarse salt
  • fresh pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half lenghtwise and remove pulp and seeds. Fill up a casserole dish with about 1/4 inch of water, place squash face down in it and bake for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Let squash cool for a few minutes and remove the flesh (is there a better word for it?) using a fork and pulling it lenghtwise to form long strands. in a large bowl add parsley to squash and season to taste with butter, salt and pepper.

The dish: If you're a long time reader of this blog, then you know that I'm not afraid of carbs and didn't buy into the whole Atkins craze. That being said, spaghetti squash is great as it has the feel of pasta, but with a nuttier flavor that stands on its own better and has no fat and virtually no calories. If cutting a raw squash the size of a toddler scares you, then you can cook it whole and scoop out the funk once cooked. I typically will cut it when raw to avoid excessive handling when hot and I find that it tends to dry out a little when cooked whole. If you don't already own one, now is a great time to buy a knife sharpener (I have a Chef Choice 110 and love it) as all of these delicious fall and winter root veggies are thick skinned and tend to be difficult to cut.

nutty bar milkshakes


Soften ice cream by leaving at room temperature for 10 minutes. Crush the nutty bars with your hands while they are still in their wrapper. Once softened, combine ice cream and milk in blender until a good milkshake consistency is achieved. Mix in crushed nutty bars and serve immediately.

The dish: Nutty Bars are the greatest things ever, period.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

purple potato salad



  • fresh purple potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in half
  • Dijon mustard
  • Champagne vinegar
  • honey

In salted boiling water, cook potatoes for 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Combine equal parts honey, vinegar and mustard; adjust according to taste. Pour dressing over potatoes and serve either warm or cold. I was lucky enough to have a close to empty squeeze jar of Dijon in the fridge so I used it to mix the dressing and I was able to achieve the cool drizzle effect in the photo.

The dish: I usually try to avoid Frankenfood because square watermelons and grape flavored apples just don't do it for me. I'm not sure how altered purple potatoes are, but our farm friends had some and I just had to try them. They taste just like a regular potato, but carry some of the health benefits associated with other purple foods. The most abundant of the good stuff are flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that among other things, might help keep cancer at bay. There's been a lot of research into the biological environment cancer cells live in and what we can do through diet to alter it. In other words, if Madame Cancer decides to take up with us, we don't have to be good hosts. Cancer is a tricky disease that's good at sending out signals to our bodies to divert resources like food and energy toward its own benefit. Everything we eat or drink changes the composition of our blood, and various nutrients in food can alter it in such a way that it blocks some of cancer's communications. Various flavonoids and antioxidants can actually fight cancer by doing things like controlling blood sugar to reducing inflammation. In addition to tasting great, this salad has tons of cancer fighting properties and nutrients our bodies can put to use. Not to mention, the distinctive purple and yellow coloring looks like the velvet pouch that Crown Royal comes in, and only good things come out of that magical bag.

Texas toast bruschetta


  • frozen garlic toast Texas style
  • fresh tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • Balsamic vinegar

Prepare toast according to package instructions. Dice tomatoes and basil finely and blend together, taking care not to over mix. Pile tomatoes on toast and drizzle with vinegar, serve immediately.

The dish: It's pretty scary to look in someones eyes and see pure hate. It's even scarier when that person is a friend you've known most of your life; scarier still when the occasion is his wedding. Yet this happened a few weeks back, and I feel nothing but proud of my comrade. You see, the good friend is a surgeon who specializes in oncology, practicing at the prestigious Fox Chase Cancer Center. I've never seen him as happy as when he was standing next to his beautiful wife, yet when the conversation turned to work he spoke with great admiration for the doctors who have taught him, compassion for the patients he's helped, and disdain for the ugly pile of cells he pulls out of the folks on the operating table beneath him. Having lost his father at a young age to cancer he has his reasons to dislike the disease, but has channeled it using his knowledge and dedication in a way that inspires awe. Like all great doctors, I'm amazed by them and yet hope to never have the occasion to be their patient. Doing things like not smoking and using sunscreen are obvious ways to keep cancer at bay, but there's much more we can do. Eating tomatoes gives our bodies lycopene, which some studies have shown will slow the growth of certain types of cancer. I can't think of a better way to get my dose of lycopene than the festival of tomatoes that is bruschetta. I would have used fresh bread but this batch was made at the last minute using some of my sister's bumper crop (you have a green thumb- you're adopted) and we had some Hannaford garlic toast Texas style on hand. It was delicious and our bodies were better off for the offering.

spinach salad with warm cider vinaigrette and seared scallops


  • fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
  • good quality bacon bits
  • fried onion strips
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • fresh sea scallops

In a saucepan over high heat, bring apple cider to boil, reduce heat to medium high and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar to cider and reduce heat to medium low, continue cooking while preparing scallops. Heat olive oil in pan over high heat. Season scallops with coarse salt and fresh pepper and add to pan when fully heated. Cook for 3 minutes, flip and continue to cook for three minutes or until done throughout. Arrange spinach on plate, build with onions and bacon, pour dressing over it and top with scallops.

The dish: Every now and again I'll have a dream that's so vivid that I'll wake up and not be sure if it really happened or not. While this phenomenon isn't always so pleasant when my dreams have bad twists to them, sometimes it can be quite enjoyable. Awhile back I woke up after having dreamt that I was at some social function where I stood with a drink in one hand and a bacon wrapped scallop in the other. The server was always nearby and by the time I pushed myself out of the REM cycle there was a formidable pile of discarded toothpicks on her tray and my drink had been refilled more than once. It was such a nice memory that I wasn't sure it didn't actually happen until Kim insisted it occurred only in my frontal cortex. From that moment I was on the hunt: I had to have some bacon wrapped scallops. Naturally things like this only happen on weeks when every minute I have is well spoken for in advance. It was about 6 days later when I finally dug into some and they tasted as good as I had been expecting (fortunately I didn't have to wait that long eternity for a cocktail). Bacon really does make most things better, but scallops in particular seem to benefit from their salty goodness. Throw in some spinach and a vinaigrette and you've got some nutritional absolution that tastes like a dream.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

chicken tortilla soup






  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
  • 2 ancho chili peppers, seeded
  • 5 large tomatoes
  • roasted chicken, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 white onion, chopped fine
  • cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • tortilla strips

In food processor pulse tomatoes and peppers until smooth. Combine mixture with tomato soup and cook over a medium low flame for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine avocado, chicken, onion, cilantro and tortilla strips in bowl, pour soup mixture over it and serve immediately. Note- if you can't find tortilla strips in the supermarket, look in either the produce section or near the salad dressings.

The dish: It's common to say that when people move from New York to points south their blood thins. I never saw evidence of this fact quite as astounding as when I was in Fort Lauderdale last August and had dinner with a good friend who is an empire state expatriate. As I was trying to battle the heat in shorts and sandals, he sat coolly in jeans and ordered the soup. I thought he was nuts until it was brought out; a bowl of fresh ingredients was placed in front of him as the attentive waiter poured a steamy tomato based liquid from a ceramic basin. It looked and smelled delicious enough that I immediately ordered my own bowl, and was amazed at the taste. We were sitting in Bar Zen, looking out on the rain forest garden that was home for the resident swans at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure. Real life returned for my friend who had to go home and go to work the next day, but Kim and I hung around awhile longer; me reading by the pool while she got pampered behind the red door. Our stay was just what we needed to re-charge and relax, and the Bonaventure did a great job of making sure we did just that. We had many great meals there, and they all began with a bowl of tortilla soup. We've since been to a few other Hyatts and have tried the tortilla soup when it's available, and they're all good, but the Bonaventure is the best. I suspect that the chef at the Hyatt skips using Andy Warhol's favorite subject and instead achieves a velvety texture by adding crumbled corn tortillas to the simmering tomatoes, but I'm not sure. Either way, this was made on a weeknight when my own real life beckoned and I had to take a short cut. It was enjoyable, but certainly not as good as the Bonaventure's. We're booked to return for a long weekend in January, so I'm sure on those chilly Florida winter nights when it dips into the 60s, we'll enjoy many bowls of tortilla soup.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thai-style chicken pumpkin soup


  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger (I used gourmet garden)
  • 1 tablepoon chili pepper blend (gourmet garden again)
  • 1.5lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15oz can packed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup mango nectar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • green onions, chopped
  • roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • cooked white rice (take out is best)

In a skillet over a medium flame brown onion, garlic and pepper for 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in ginger. In large crock pot combine onion mixture with chicken, carrots, pumpkin, mango nectar, lime juice, peanut butter, chicken stock and vinegar. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Place a mound of cooked rice in center of serving bowl and pour soup around it. Garnish with cilantro, green onions and peanuts.

The dish: I hate our local newspaper, and yet I've been a steady subscriber forever. One of my favorite things to do is to settle back with the Sunday paper and read through all the news and save the colored funnies for a grand finale. Somewhere in there I sort through the mountain of store circulars and coupons. Hiding beneath that yogurt coupon is page after page of useless crap, ranging from Yankee's Christmas ornaments and limited edition trains to elastic waistband comfort pants made from genuine polyester (accept no imitations). One day a few weeks back I saw an ad for a set of three crock pot cookbooks among all the other crap. Feeling a little adventurous I sent in my check and waited 3-4 weeks for my bounty to come in the mail. When they arrived I thumbed through them and was not shocked to see mostly recipes I had seen before. This soup was one of the few new ones that stood out. We decided to be daring and try something new at home. The result was phenomenal; this soup is a winner. It turned out to be not spicy or sweet, but rather very distinctive and comforting. It will most certainly grace the red room again. If you're reading this in the fall of 2009, please be aware that there's a shortage of canned pumpkin and you may have to drive to more than one store before you stumble upon some.

garlic onion refrigerator pickles


  • 1lb small cucumbers (I've seen them called kirby and kuke, so I have no idea what is right)
  • pickling salt
  • fresh garlic, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced into rings
  • cider vinegar
  • sugar
  • fresh dill
  • mustard seed

Combine about 1.5 cups of salt with 4 or so cups of water. Make sure that salt is well dissolved and pour over cucumbers in a tight container. Let sit at room temperature, out of the sun, for two days. Drain and rinse the cucumbers well. Combine 3 cups cider vinegar with 1.5 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar, cook and bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Let cool for 20 minutes. In a tight fitting container, layer the cucumbers with the garlic, onion and dill with a few shakes of mustard seed. When vinegar mixture has cooled slightly, pour over the mixture and refrigerate for 1 week.

The dish: I once remarked to our favorite farmers that making pickles was more of a commitment than marriage was. I was being facetious, but there's an element of truth to that statement. There's no one step in making these pickles that's difficult, but if you skip one or screw it up your finished product will suffer. You can screw up in marriage pretty frequently and it can all end well anyway. Much like marriage, pickles are worth the effort, you'll never want to eat a pickle from a jar after you make your own. We used these on top of some pulled pork sandwiches and the taste was out of this world.

pork verde chili


  • 4 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1lb boneless pork spareribs, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 jar of good quality verde salsa
  • sour cream
  • fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Combine beans, pork and salsa in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream.

The dish: This is an easy recipe that comes across as more difficult than it should. Since there's only a few ingredients it's important that you use only the freshest and the best as the flavors will come through. I used Santa Barbara roasted tomatillo salsa and it was awesome. It was a bit more than some of the cheaper varieties, but well worth the added expense. We're quickly coming up on that time of year when it's cold and dark when we get home so walking into a warm dish in the crock pot is a great feeling. If you don't already have one I can think of a few reasons why you should part with the $30 and buy one.

cucmber salad with yogurt dressing



  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • coarse salt

Dice the cucumbers into bite sized pieces. Stir the lemon juice into the yogurt until well blended. Pour dressing over cucumbers, add parsley and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt.

The dish: Growing up in suburbia has its advantages: good schools, big houses and bigger yards. The one main drawback is the mid-teen realization that there's nothing to do. Like many other kids in my town, I spent countless hours at the Monroe Diner nursing my chocolate milk and gravy fries for as long as I could before the waitresses would kick us out or it would be curfew time. On any given weekend night 2/3 of the school would be piled into booths, hanging out and complaining that there was nothing to do. For all of the whining I did at the time I look back fondly on those years and realize that there's not much to do anywhere if you take that attitude. All those hours spent at the "teenage wasteland" that was the diner helped formed friendships that are still active to this day and it also opened my eyes to Greek cuisine. Pairing cucumber and yogurt together is a no-brainer as it is the basis for gyro sauce (yeah, I'm not even gonna try to spell it for real- too many consonants). John Lennon said that "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" but for kids growing up in suburbia life is frequently what happens while you're complaining that there's nothing to do.

penne with sauteed kale


Cook pasta according to package directions. Top with sauteed kale and serve.

The dish: I just read an article on how the American diet has shifted from being spring based, leafy greens and such, to being autumn based, seeds and oils from them. The article contended that we evolved by naturally packing on a few pounds in the fall months in anticipation of the coming winter. The shift is because of individual tastes and preferences, but mostly has to do about money. Oils are more stable and last much longer than leafy greens, so food manufacturers and retailers looking to reduce spoilage opt for them. The result is predictable; we're all getting fat. We had some kale leftover from our last run to the farmer's market, so this dinner was a lay up. The combination of the whole wheat pasta and the kale was tasty and fulfilling, and it was good to give our bodies a nice spring meal when the days are getting shorter and the leaves are beginning to turn.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nanwich


  • sliced deli ham
  • muenster cheese
  • bread
  • butter

Spread bottom half of bread with butter, stack ham and cheese. Cut in half to serve.

The dish: There are few spots on earth where you feel as faultless and perfect as when you're standing in the sight of your grandparents. When your age can be counted on your fingers this becomes especially true. I bring this up because today was my paternal grandmother's funeral. My father gave the best eulogy I've ever heard and it really got me thinking about my nan as a person. Her own mother died when she was just a young child and she and her sister were raised by her uncle (another exceptional person; you'll hear more about him when I make something with honey). The obstacles my grandmother had to overcome never once diminished her spirit and her unwavering faith was the foundation of her remarkable life. She was valedictorian of her high school class and attended the college of New Rochelle on full scholarship (women in the 30s going to college? In the shadow of the 19th amendment, most were amazed they could just vote). She married my grandfather and raised 4 boys, building a family that's continually growing. 13 years ago she lost her husband of over 50 years and still remained strong, thriving in the role as the leader of the family. Her reward for such a rich and long life was a terrible disease that slowly robbed her mind from her, and yet her faith remained with her to the end. All of this of course, takes a back seat to the memories my younger self holds of the treat of going to nanny and poppy's house. My grandparents did a great job of making sure their home was always stocked with an endless variety of snacks; everything from chocolate milk, to fresh cold cuts to any type of Entenmann's cake you could imagine. One of my favorite treats was a ham and cheese sandwich nan would make where she would spread the bread with butter that was soft from sitting at room temperature. Those early memories were so great that they've left me with not only a fondness of food, but a feeling as to how a kitchen should look; nan too had a red room. All of the goodies my grandmother would give me were prepared in her red kitchen and it always seemed so sharp that when it came time to remodel ours the choice was obvious what color it had to be. It was great having nan visit our home because for someone who was always so svelte she had a great appetite and loved to try new things (that and more than anyone else in our family she loved our cat, Digit). It was great to fix nan a treat from my red kitchen, thinking back on how our roles were reversed from years earlier. In honor of nan, Kim signed us up for a walk to benefit an Alzheimer's association and as I get more information I'll be posting it as comments to this entry. If you'd like to donate or to participate, please do not hesitate to contact us.

bbq salmon



  • boneless, skinless salmon fillets
  • prepared bbq sauce

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place salmon fillets in casserole dish and cover with bbq sauce. Bake for 15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.

The dish: I was at a party recently and a friend of mine that I've known since high school called me a "car geek". I guess the label holds true as I've always had a fondness of our four wheeled friends and spent a large chunk of my life wanting to design them (that dream of course died when I realized I was too dumb to earn an engineering degree). It's not surprising that one of my all time favorite jobs was driving for a huge auto auction. This was the largest dealer to dealer auto auction on the east coast and every Wednesday we'd sell thousands of cars to dealers that came in from as far away as California. There were seven auction blocks that were ranked in order of the quality of the cars sold; lane one had Porsches and BMWs, lane seven had Pintos. Since it was a one day a week job (I had two others at the time) we had a lot of retirees driving for us. It was explained to me that the older gents were assigned to the better lanes because they might not be able to handle some of the trickier cars that came through the bottom lanes (I drove a car that exploded once, but that's a different story). Naturally, I was a lane seven driver. My job was to hop in a car parked in our area of the massive auction's property, drive it to the block to be sold, drive it back to our area, park it, and hop in the next car to repeat the process all over again. I would drive about 100 cars a day which was a rush for a car geek like myself. One Tuesday a month we hosted the Ford, Mercury, Lincoln sale where every single car returned from a lease or a rental company was sold on our property. There weren't as many of us working on FML Tuesdays and it wasn't uncommon for your cars to be parked on a pretty remote corner of the massive lot. One such morning the auction van dropped me off in front of my row of cars at the absolute far reach of the yard, way out of sight or sound of anyone. We started pretty early and I was shot so I drove through the first part of my shift on auto-pilot. I was a few hours into it when I had a revelation and looked at the line of cars I had already driven, and then turned and looked at what I would drive for the rest of my day. I was so tired that I hadn't noticed that I already navigated 25 or so of the absolutely identical Ford Taurus through the auction block. White, with tan cloth interior, alloy wheels, the premium sound system (which back then meant a CD player) and just feet shy of 30,000 miles. I looked at the long line of them that vanished into the horizon and felt like I was trapped in the twilight zone. There was no one around for miles; just me and 100 or so of the identical mid sized sedan. I felt a little freaked and thought about asking my boss to be switched, but the only way I could get to him was to hop in a white Taurus, so I decided to just rough it out and try not to think about it. I bring this up only because posting salmon recipes one right after the other has a slightly similar effect on me. Although they're all different, they all basically start with the same ingredient and it does tend to feel the same when writing about them. At least at the base of the recipe is a fish that I enjoy; now if I could only say the same of the early 90s Taurus.

zucchini ribbon salad with pine nuts and goat cheese


  • fresh zucchini
  • pine nuts
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • white wine vinegar (I had some Chardonnay vinegar, but any would work)
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper

Cook whole zucchinis in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Rinse under cold water until they are chilled enough to handle. Using a vegetable peeler, slice strips of zucchini until you reach the seeded center. Combine zucchini strips, nuts and cheese in large bowl. Whisk together olive oil and vinegar and pour over salad, toss to coat. Season with fresh pepper and serve chilled.

The dish: If you live in the sunny Mid-Hudson Valley, one sure way to know that the summer is right at the halfway mark is to look for the Orange County Fair to come to town. The OC fair combines the elements of an old time farm fair with modern amusements and enough of a sleazy element to keep things interesting. I'm a regular visitor and long about March I start looking forward to my annual day of eating fried foods and hanging upside down on a ride that dubs as a truck trailer. After I've eaten my annual allowance of trans fats and my stomach can't take anymore of giving gravity the finger, I know it's time to settle down for some games on the midway. The best and fairest of the amusements is a game called "Jone's I Got It", or "bingo with a bounce" if you're a regular. The concept is pretty simple; 10-25 players sit on stools about 3 feet away from bins that have grids of holes. In front of the players is a reservoir filled with little rubber balls (think the kind in the red vending machines in the front of the supermarket that you'd beg your mom for and then throw once and realize it was like watching your allowance bounce down the street) and when the announcer calls it, you have to toss the balls into the bin ahead of you and be the first to get 5 in a row. There's really no skill to it and it's only $.50 a game, so it's a great way to spend some time. We usually play long enough to win at least a few games, which means we can visit the illustrious Jone's prize table. They do a good job of making the junky prizes seem high end, keeping the table surrounded by a velvet rope and a having a prize official in a Jone's polo shirt to help you pick out your loot. We were on a pretty good streak this year and got to choose from the second tier of prizes. I saw the plain glass serving tray pictured above and knew I had to have it (really, I didn't just scoop the zucchini salad onto my counter). It was a little awkward carrying a platter around the fair while everyone else had stuffed bears and such, but it was worth the effort. I took it home and after scrubbing the fair funk off it (it was sealed in a package, but still) realized what a great tray I had. I do my best to keep things in a healthy rotation around here, but I'm sure you'll be seeing more of it in the future. Let's just hope that in 2010 I'm really lucky and can get that lighted picture of the New York skyline I've been eyeing.

lobster roll


  • cooked and chilled lobster meat
  • celery, chopped fine
  • mayonnaise
  • adobo
  • sub rolls
  • fresh lettuce, torn into pieces

Combine lobster meat (you can use our old friend crab stick in this recipe, but the real thing is such a nice treat) celery, mayo and adobo to taste in a large bowl. Pile onto lettuce placed on the rolls.

The dish: Not too long ago, after a particularly rough week for both of us, Kim and I decided we needed a brief break from everything. Not wanting to stray too far from home, we wound up in Albany to poke around the capital and check out the World Trade Center exhibit at the New York State Museum. If you haven't been, then go. The whole museum is great, but the WTC display is quite moving. The rest of the Empire State Plaza has quite a bit to see as well. Walking along the reflecting pools at the base of the large marble buildings, it's easy to get the feeling that you're in a mini-DC (another awesome place to check out). We killed a whole day exploring and as the sun began to set, darkening the sky behind the shillouette of The Egg, we decided to find somewhere to eat. We wound up in a place that was really unremarkable in every way, but figured any grub was good grub when you're starved and away from home. They advertised their "delicious" lobster roll, but I was a little reluctant to lay out too much cash for a sandwich in a dive. Kim convinced me to indulge, and the damn thing turned out to be great. Shortly after we got home somebody turned me on to 3 Kids Corp, and excited about the new source of cheap lobster and wanting to re-create our fun meal on our weekend away, I made this sandwich. It turned out great, but I think it tastes even better if you're wearing an I heart Albany t-shirt.

PBMD


  • bagel, toasted
  • fresh tomato, sliced
  • cream cheese
  • balsamic vinegar

Prepare bagel; you can use fresh or frozen (I used Ray's frozen, which really are the best), toasted or not. Spread cream cheese on bottom half of bagel, top with tomato slices and vinegar to taste.

The dish: If you look at a map of the earth you'll notice that Japan is pretty much all the way to the right and California is way to the left. The land of the rising sun is so named because they're the first on the globe to get drenched in the fresh sunlight building from the east (this is also the reason why on New Year's Eve while we're still chilling the bubbly and wrapping the pigs in blankets, Dick Clark is cutting to shots of tired Asians that look like they've been partying awhile). By contrast, the folks in the Golden State are the last ones to roll out of bed in the morning. For this reason, through my admittedly limited research, I've come to the conclusion that Californians are more prone to an earlier and healthier lifestyle. They have no choice but to be early risers; the rest of the planet is already awake and going strong. This phenomenon can be clearly seen on the greatest show of all time, Melrose Place (the original of course, the new one premiered last night so it's too soon to tell). Although their lifestyles may not be psychologically healthy, all the young residents of LA wake early and always eat breakfast. Kim and I were watching some older re-runs of the show recently and were having fun noticing how not only does everyone always eat three squares, but those meals consist of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. On one such episode, Dr. Peter Burns is having an early meeting with his colleague Dr. Michael Mancini, while fixing himself some breakfast in the break room of their posh office. Burns takes a cut bagel and spreads it with cream cheese and then piles on some fresh tomato slices and finishes it with some salt and pepper. I basically stole the good Dr's recipe, save the vinegar difference, but I did give him props naming it after him. Now that tomatoes are in full bloom, this is a great way to start your day like the residents of 4616 Melrose do, minus the waking up next to your ex/in-law/friend/friend's other, etc.

Monday, August 31, 2009

bbq peach turkey tenderloins


  • turkey tenderloins
  • 1 bottle of bbq sauce
  • 2 jars baby food, peaches

Combine baby food and prepared bbq sauce. Brush liberally on all sides of turkey and grill until done.

The dish: If you believe the theory of birth order, then Kim and I are doomed. A relationship of the two last born children will spiral out of control as it will seem like no one is in charge, and even the youngest can only take chaos for so long (would it be a bad time to mention that we had zebra cakes for dinner tonight?). I bring this up only because being the youngest child means that you grow up with limited experience in matters like diapers and baby food. I've never had to feed a younger sibling baby food who promptly spit it up or threw it on the floor, so it doesn't mean much more to me than just being that generic mush in the little jar. I wanted to try something new and yet easy with traditional bbq sauce, so I figured I'd give this a try. It gave a really great taste without adding too much artificial flavor or sweetness. Just for kicks I still cut my meat into little pieces and pretended my fork was a locomotive heading toward the tunnel of my mouth, but I do that at least two nights a week, so I don't think there's much of a connection.

green bean and carrot stiry fry


  • fresh green beans, ends snapped off
  • fresh carrots, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • wok oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin
  • sesame oil

In a small bowl whisk together sesame oil, mirin and soy sauce. Set aside. Heat oil in wok for about 3 minutes over a high flame. Add veggies and cook over a high flame for about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in sauce, serve immediately.

The dish: It's impossible to do much of anything these days without hearing about how we can all be greener. For a phrase that didn't exist a few years ago outside of a bike riding frog, it seems as though it really might not be that easy to be green. Eating at home is one sure way to reduce your carbon footprint if for no reason other than you'll be driving to get your food once a week or so at the store as opposed to meal by meal dining out. Bonus if the food you're cooking was grown and sold locally (the above was). Outside of eating food raw, wok cooking is one of the most efficient ways to prepare meals. Using a wok involves cooking food quickly over a high flame, using as little fuel as possible. The curved shape of a wok allows for food at the bottom to be seared at an intense temperature, while being able to be tossed around by the chef with a low likelihood of spillage, reducing waste. The shape also allows for very little heat to escape as the sloping sides capture most of what dissipates from the bottom. The model of efficiency, I wonder why the Government isn't giving us money to trade in our old frying pans on shiny new woks. I hate saying it, but using my wok makes me think that Kermit was wrong, it is easy being green.

seared sesame tuna



  • fresh tuna steaks
  • sesame seeds
  • olive oil

Rub tuna in seeds, coating all sides evenly. Heat olive oil over high flame for 3 minutes or until very hot. Saute tuna, cooking each side for three minutes, turning once. Remove from pan and serve immediately, slicing into thin strips on the bias.

The dish: In computer programing there's an old saying, gigo, or, garbage in, garbage out. That basic premise holds true in so many different areas of life that it's worth mentioning here. One of the basic steps to good cooking is to start off with quality ingredients. Eating a dish of rare tuna is highly dependent upon starting off with a pretty good grade of fish. I recently found a wholesaler that has some of the best frozen fish I've had at any price, and he's cheap. The tuna comes ready to eat and is sushi grade so eating it a little rare is no problem at all. I stocked my freezer full of fillets of salmon (who da thunk it?) and tuna. When they're ready to eat you can have a healthy a tasty dinner in a matter of minutes. If you're local to the orange county area, I encourage you to stop by 3 Kids corp and fill your freezer a little for the busy fall months ahead.

peanut butter banana smoothie



  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 scoop frozen vanilla yogurt
  • milk

Place everything but milk in blender and begin to pulse. Slowly add milk and continue pulsing until you have a thick smoothie consistency.

The dish: I met Kim the Friday night before a Saturday St. Patrick's day. We hit it off pretty well and wanted to hang out again, but both had plans for the next day; she was going to a math conference and I was going to New York to drink green beer (telling?). We made plans to meet Sunday for lunch. In the beginning of a relationship when you know so little about someone, where they pick to eat can be pretty telling. I wasn't sure what to expect but was shocked when I met her out and she asked "do you like sandwiches". Turns out she wanted to take advantage of some unseasonably warm March weather and grab a quick lunch and go for a hike. The first sandwich shop we went to was closed on Sundays, so we ventured to the next. We wound up at Rocket Wraps (get a website people!!), where we had some kind of rolled up sandwich and smoothies. To this day, whenever Kim can find a reason to go there, she returns and she always has a peanut butter banana smoothie. We had some bananas that needed to be used and a new appliance to play with, so we came to the mutual conclusion that we should try to duplicate Rocket Wrap's concoction. I liked it, but really don't have the intimate knowledge of the real thing that Kim does, but she loved it. It was a perfect treat on a warm day and sharing the smoothie in our red kitchen brought back good memories of enjoying one together when we barely knew one another on that sunny day in March.

grilled spam and pineapple sandwich


  • spam, sliced
  • cored pineapple slices
  • fresh baby spinach
  • Dijon mustard
  • hamburger bun

Grill spam and pineapple on bbq until just slightly charred. Assemble sandwich as follows (from bottom to top); bun, spinach, pineapple, spam, mustard, bun.

The dish: Spam was born as the marketing effort to revive sales of Hormel's spiced ham. The name was the result of a contest where the lucky winner, the brother of a Hormel executive (fix anyone?), won $100 for tagging the iconic canned meat. Many years later, there is no spot on the earth that consumes more Spam than Hawaii, whose citizens each eat in excess of 15 tins per year of the edible junk mail. First introduced by soldiers during World War II, Spam quickly became a staple of the native diet. The 50th state is pretty far out there and needs to import pretty much everything, so the canned meat that travels well is an obvious choice for dinner on the island. Spam is so prevalent that Hawaiian McDonald's and Burger Kings offer it on their menus. My first introduction to Spam came when I moved into a bachelor pad apartment with regular red room reader Rebecca's (up yours Judy Bussman- don't worry, your not supposed to get it) now husband, Kevin. A group of us sat and watched reluctantly as Kevin grilled us up a snack. I'm pretty open minded, but Spam just has such a connotation to it, but damned if it wasn't delicious. This sandwich is a nod to Kevin's genius grilling and the folks that call Spam their "Hawaiian steak".

warm zucchini salad



  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta
  • fresh zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 red onion, chopped fine
  • dried red pepper flakes
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a swirl of olive oil, saute onion over a medium high flame for 3 minutes, add zucchini and pepper flakes, reduce flame to medium, stirring occasionally. After about 7 minutes add a few splashes of vinegar. Once pasta is cooked, drain and add to the zucchini, tossing to coat, adding parsley and more vinegar as needed. Serve immediately with grated cheese on top.

The dish: As Yogi Berra said, "it's like deja vu all over again". At first glance, it might look your faithful blogger hit the post button one too many times, but I beg you to read closer. If these two dishes were served in succession, I think you'd be amazed at how different they wind up tasting just by altering a few basic things. Although they were cooked as two different meals (really, look the pasta is different) this could have been a planned-over. Simply serve warm for dinner and then you've got a great cold lunch for the next day. Between the whole grain pasta and the bulk of the zucchini, you'll be amazed at how far this dish goes, which makes it easy on the wallet. Saving a few bucks in these tight times is important for all of us because as Yogi also said, "a nickel just isn't worth a dime anymore".

cold zucchini and pasta salad


  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta
  • fresh zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
  • fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • balsamic vinegar

Cook pasta according to directions on package. About 2 minutes before finished, throw the zucchini in the pot and allow to cook until just tender. Rinse under cold water and allow to cool. Stir in good quality balsamic vinegar (I'm using some Private Harvest I got from Marshall's and it's the best I've ever had) and parsley. Refrigerate until served.

The dish: One of the original goals of starting this blog was to improve my camera skills. In addition to certain basic staging and lighting techniques, I've learned the most important rule in successful amateur digital photography: take lots of pictures. The finished product that ends up on this page (btw, if you click the above picture it takes you to a jumbo version of it) is the best of many out of focus and poorly lit attempts. I've begun a snap fish page to showcase some of the not ready for prime time shots. Feel free to check them out and let me know if you think I picked the best ones.

zucchini saute



  • fresh green and yellow zucchini (or summer squash if you must be a pain in the ass), cut into small pieces
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • fresh ground pepper

In 2 swirls of oil, heat the zucchini over a medium flame until slightly tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

The dish: My in-laws live in a rural town that makes most of Norman Rockwell's paintings seem downright urban. It's the type of town with one store and no traffic lights, where everybody knows everyone and you can comfortably leave your doors unlocked fifty weeks of the year. When the townsfolk are are reaching for their keys when they enter their homes, you can be sure of one thing; it's zucchini season. Being that the population density is about 1 person per square mile, pretty much everyone has an active garden and zucchini is easy to grow, yields a bit and apparently isn't too popular for dinner. Under the guise of being kind-hearted, folks will leave squash in their neighbors cars and foyers, often to be found by people with their own harvest surplus. I'd love to have such problems, as zucchini is one of my favorites, but when I left my door open all that happened was that my stereo got stolen (well, not really, but I didn't get any squash either, dammit). Fortunately, Kim visited her mother recently and returned home with a zucchini the size of my leg. Between that and the good folks from our favorite farm, we've had a bit of squash to work through. If you're getting tired of reading about it, then lock your doors, you're probably not the only one who feels that way.

grilled asparagus


  • fresh asparagus spears
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Drizzle asparagus with a little olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness over an open flame. Cut off bottom of stalks before serving.

The dish: Every now and again I love a little vino, but I've never paid too much attention to those "wine snobs" that turn the pleasurable act of sipping a glass of Cabernet into a chore full of using big words and making funny faces, and worst of all, ultimately spitting out the drink. I feel I should let them know that even "bad" wine is pretty good once swallowed, but it's just too much fun to watch them act like tools. White with fish and red with beef is pretty basic stuff, but after that you get into grey area with other meats and veggies. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what works with what, but they all pretty much agree, there is no wine to pair with asparagus. To listen to the most snobby of them, you'd think they were talking about kryptonite and superman, not Pinot Grigio and spring's favorite green stalk. I'm not even that huge a fan of asparagus and I think it gets a bum wrap. To combat this bias I suggest first grilling asparagus, as there is no more delicious preparation of the green. Don't be afraid to let it sit on the bbq a little while and get some char-color to them. While that's going, find the cheapest and lightest dry white wine (bonus if the cap screws off) you can and stick that puppy in the freezer for awhile, letting it get almost ice cold. Between the taste of the grill and the lightness of the freezing wine, the flavors work together like Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet. While this method may be looked down upon by the most dedicated students of vinology, it works and is a great treat for the warm months.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

mushroom pate


  • portobello mushrooms
  • fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Saute mushrooms in a little olive oil over a medium flame until tender. Place cooked mushrooms and basil in food processor, pulse while pouring in heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil and serve on crackers or crusty bread.

The dish: Before you say anything, I know pate has an accent on it, but I'll be damned if I can find one on my keyboard. I've mastered such things in my word processor, but when I cut and paste from there to here, the result is something of a cross between hieroglyphics and Mandarin Chinese. Just know that when I'm typing this I'm saying pate correctly in my head, even if winds up looking like it would rhyme with rate. Regardless, this was a tasty and easy way to use up a few nice mushrooms, as well as play with my relatively new food processor. I should have hit the pulse button once or twice more as this was a little chunky for pa-tay, but it was delicious no less.

Bob Mac




  • all beef patty
  • special sauce
  • lettuce
  • cheese
  • pickles
  • onions
  • sesame seed bun

Start singing stupid song repeatedly while grilling hamburger patty to desired doneness. Use yellow American cheese, shredded lettuce, finely diced white onion (not typical yellow), and dill pickles. Assemble sandwich in following order; bun, sauce, onion, patty, cheese, pickle, lettuce, bun.

The dish: When it all boils down, Ray Kroc isn't known for much else other than his persistence. Failing at a number of jobs from paper cup salesman to jazz pianist, he was a quasi-successful milkshake maker rep when he met the hamburger selling McDonald brothers. He had nothing to do with establishing the popular restaurant, but did recognize a good thing in it. Kroc inked a deal with the brothers allowing him rights to franchise their concept and began working tirelessly and sometimes ruthlessly (he's quoted as saying that if he saw his competition drowning he'd stick a hose in their mouth) at building Mickey Dee's into the largest restaurant chain on the globe. Eventually the namesake brothers asked to be bought out and return to running their own independent place. There was enough bad blood in the situation that Kroc forbade them from using their own name in conjuncture with their restaurant, and when the brothers were established Ray opened a McDonald's directly across the street from them and put them out of business. Kroc had such a relentless commitment to quality customer service that when he owned the San Diego Padres, he once apologized mid-game to the crowd for the team's "stupid" playing and refunded everyone the price of their tickets. For someone with such business acumen, he certainly didn't recognize opportunity when a Pittsburgh McDonald's owner came to him with the idea of selling a double decker burger for $.49, a full $.09 more than two individual sandwiches. Kroc wasn't keen on the idea, but did give the franchisee permission to sell the Big Mac at only one of his restaurants, and without the middle bun. After only a few days the enterprising franchisee realized two things; 1. without a double cut bun, eating the sandwich proved to be a mess and 2. the burger was a hit. Defying his bosses orders, he began selling the Big Mac with a middle bun at all 9 of his McDonald's. Normally going against Kroc would be enough to be kicked out of the McDonald's family, but the owner ushered in what would become the iconic hallmark of the McDonald's menu, and all was forgiven. The kicker of it is, that franchisee didn't even invent the sandwich. As a matter of fact, he wasn't shy about copying it, ingredient by ingredient from its original creator, Bob's Big Boy. Years later, you can't find a spot on the globe to hide from the glow of the arches, yet Big Boy is at best a smaller regional chain. Naming this take on the famous burger the "Bob Mac" wasn't done as an act of narcissism, but rather a nod to its rightful creator.

white bean summer salad


  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • secret sauce
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • roasted asparagus, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • malt vinegar

Combine all ingredients, adding vinegar and sauce to taste. Stir well to mix and serve chilled.

The dish: This dish was purely the result of using up stuff I had on hand. When I made the secret sauce it took a little adding and seasoning to get it just right, and before I knew it we had about 2 cups of the stuff, so I had to find some uses for it other than a sandwich condiment. It worked well on top of a couple of cans of beans and some leftover veggies I had, but I could have used whatever was in the fridge and I think it would have turned out just fine. Kim and I have a theory with recipes: if you like everything going into the dish, then you'll most likely enjoy the finished product. This theory works especially well in the red room where Kim and I love just about any ingredient you can think of, so as a result we wind up liking most dishes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

secret sauce


  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup French dressing
  • sweet relish
  • sugar
  • salt

Combine mayo, dressing and relish. Season to taste with sugar and salt, serve chilled.

The dish: McDonald's has done a great job throughout the years making sure that when someone hears the phrase "secret sauce", they think of nothing other than the golden arches. It's as though Mickey Dees alone has the market cornered on unknown tastes. This is particularly odd because the condiment is not that secretive at all. Commonly thought to be a variation on thousand island dressing, the sauce actually turns out best when started with a mayo and French dressing base. McDonald's has stuck to offering it only as a topping on the Big Mac, but it works really well on a number of different things.

Friday, July 17, 2009

grilled balsamic salmon


  • salmon fillet
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • garlic cloves

Marinate salmon, vinegar, olive oil and garlic for at least 3 hours. When ready to cook, wrap salmon in tin foil, discarding marinade and garlic. Grill over a low flame for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Don't be fooled, cooking it in foil won't yield the prettiest salmon, but it will taste great.

The dish: Here's the deal: I love salmon, but I'm getting sick of saying the same things about it over and over, so today I'll do something different. Instead of touting the virtues of our friend who swims upstream, I'll give some insight into why this blog has been idle most of July. As I've said before, I love to ride my mountain bike but with all the rain we've had this year it's been tough to get on the trail. I've spent a fraction of the amount of time on my bike this years as opposed to years past, which is why I think I recently forgot a valuable lesson in riding; things go best when the rubber side stays down. The stretch of trail I crashed on is so familiar to me that I often will ride through it in my mind on nights that I have trouble sleeping. I have an intimate knowledge of every twist, every hill, and every obstacle, which is why I wasn't shocked when the trail crossed the path of a wet tree root, I had ridden over it countless times before. As is the case with such things, I'm not really sure what went wrong, but my front tire bounced in a way I didn't expect it to and I had an immediate yet brief sensation of soaring through the air, right over the front of my bicycle (impressive since my feet were still clipped to the pedals). I painfully landed face down a pretty good distance from both the trail and my bike. Without getting too graphic (you did come here to read about food after all) it was clear that my shoulder had popped out and just getting up was going to be a challenge. With the help of Kim and our friend Chris I began to roll over and miraculously (and quite audibly) my shoulder righted itself and 90% of the pain instantly went away. I was able to limp back to the car and decided to play it safe and go to the ER and have things checked out. Other than quickly dropping the bikes off, we went straight to the hospital and waited long enough to watch the movie The Minority Report (it sucked) on the TV that each emergency room bed now has (who knew?). As I suspected, nothing was broken and the hospital sent me home with my arm in a sling and a warning of pain to come the next morning. It was about 7 hours after the crash when I was finally standing in the shower and letting the hot water pound onto my traumatized joint. I didn't think much about all the elapsed time until two days later when I had an unbearable itch all over my body and my skin began to look diseased. Turns out it was a big patch of poison oak that broke my fall and I pretty much let it soak into my skin all day long. The subsequent reaction was bad enough to warrant my doctor putting me on heavy duty steroids and me trying every topical remedy I could find, which none really worked, which is good because the mind numbing itching took my focus away from my sore shoulder. Needless to say, I didn't much feel like blogging. If you want to be grossed out, feel free to check out my left leg and just picture the rest of me covered in similar bruises and red splotches. Things seemed to have turned the corner, I'm looking less like a leper with each passing day so expect to see more updates soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

sulky subs



  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • sub rolls
  • fresh basil, chopped fine
  • soft goat cheese (acorn hill is the best if you're local)
  • 4 Pine Island onions, sliced into thin rings
  • brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar

In a small pat of butter over a medium-high flame, saute the onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce flame to medium, add a spoonful of brown sugar and a generous swirl around the pan of vinegar. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until onions reduce to about a third of their size, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the hell out of the chicken with a meat tenderizer, grill until fully cooked and slice into bite sized pieces. Assemble sandwich by spreading goat cheese on bottom half of bun, sprinkle a little basil over it, top with warm chicken and finish with onions.

The dish: I decided to test out that old saying "a bad day at the track is better than a good day at the office" (unless of course you're my boss or client, in which case this entry is a work of pure fiction). I live within about 25 minutes of the oldest, active racetrack in the country, so for the 5 or so days a year they race there it would be senseless to go anywhere else. I've been to the track enough times to know three things: 1. there is no such thing as a sure thing 2. any race with Stephane Bouchard is going to be great 3. although they don't get the national attention the thoroughbreds get, the standardbreds race with a great deal of heart and are beautiful ponies. Kim and I had a great afternoon and even had a chance to check out the Harness Racing Museum, a must if you haven't been yet. The kind folks in the gift shop helped me pick out the cool plate you see above. I wasn't sure what to showcase on it, but did a fair amount of research and found that folks at trotting races must not eat but those blue bloods at the triple crown do nothing but. One of the more famous thoroughbred foods are dainty finger sandwiches. Harness racing is anything but dainty, involving the jockeys strapped to the sulkies, bouncing behind the trotting horse past the stands of screaming fans that look nothing like Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. What would these enthusiastic on-lookers eat if they were more concerned about food and less about horses, like their counterparts in Kentucky and Belmont? Surely nothing dainty, but a substantial sandwich that would replenish some of the energy lost for cheering at the photo finish. Some chicken and local goat cheese and basil, topped off with the bounty of the neighboring onion capital of the world, named after the simple machine that separates their races from those other ones. If you haven't been to a harness race, then go. They'll be racing all this weekend at the Historic Track, and as the name implies it's like stepping back in time. Ladies, make sure you have on your favorite Royal Ascot, and gents make sure that you've got the fixings for a sulky sub in the fridge, as you'll need some fuel when the posting is done.