Monday, June 29, 2009

hoppin' Juan

  • 1 lb dried black eyed peas
  • 1 lb chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage)
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 orange pepper, chopped fine
  • vegetable stock
  • fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 serrano peppers (or any other hot variety), seeded and chopped fine
  • fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Soak the beans overnight. The next morning, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil for about 3 minutes, add hot peppers and turn flame off. Drain the beans, place in large crock pot. Add 1 container of vegetable stock plus one container full of water, onions and garlic mixture, and diced peppers, cook on high for two hours, then low for 6+. In the last hour of cooking add chorizo (it will already be cooked) and more liquid if needed. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

The dish: "Hoppin' John", as the bag of beans said, is a mixture of black eyed peas with Italian sausage and parsley. I had scored some great chorizo (Belmond Farms- awesome) and had designs of doing a dish like this before I ever saw the bag of Goya beans. I figured that the only material difference between hoppin' John and my dish was the slight Latin accent (not that kind of Latin) of the chorizo and cilantro instead of the sausage and parsley so I decided that "Hoppin' Juan" would be a good moniker. This was a great dish to come home to on one of the many rainy days that we've had recently and even tasted good cold as leftovers. For thousands of years people of all different cultures have believed that eating some variation of hoppin' John on New Year's Day would bring good luck in the coming year. Here we are at the midway point of this year and I hope that the good luck thing works as well now as it does in January. Have a great second half of 09 everyone!

radish canapes

  • fresh radishes, sliced thin
  • fresh baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • spreadable cheese, I used rondele

Spread cheese onto slices of bread, top with radish slices and serve.

The dish: If you're new to the party, then you may not know that the red room is equipped with a deli slicer. I began slicer ownership with the idea of lunch meats and sandwiches, not thinking much beyond that. After the initial awe of making creations that would leave Dagwood jealous wore off, that's when the real learning began. Slicing veggies and bread wasn't something that I thought of the first time I took my slicer out of the box, but I can't imagine how I ever got along without it. There's an old saying, "if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail". While this is true, figuring out new uses for your existing tools is a great compliment to acquiring new ones. I haven't figured out any thing else to do with a hammer, but I've learned that the usefulness of the slicer doesn't end when you're not eating cold cuts.

Monday, June 22, 2009

baked salmon with lemon and parsley

  • salmon fillets, boneless and skinless
  • 1 lemon
  • whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Marinate the salmon in the garlic and juice of the lemon. Cover fillet in parsley and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes or until cooked to desired doneness.

The dish: This is a pretty simple preparation, so make sure that you use only the freshest ingredients, as they have no sauce or crust to hide under. For the longest time I was never happy with the fish I made at home, but then it dawned on me that I was buying it from a guy named Larry out of the trunk of his Impala. I switched, and now I buy it at a local produce store and it's as fresh as can be. The stuff you buy "fresh" at the supermarket has been previously frozen, which doesn't always matter, but don't expect a simple dish like this to shine using it. If you haven't already you really should start adding some salmon to your diet as it's about the best source for Omega-3s which do everything from slow cancerous growths to boost your mood. Your body needs Omega-3s and can't store them so the only way that you can be sure you have enough is to make a point to eat more fish, fatty ones like salmon in particular. If you're undecided about what to do for dinner, click on the salmon link before and pick out one of the many recipes on here that appeals to you. Your body will thank you.

sauteed kale

  • fresh kale, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
  • fresh garlic, chopped fine
  • nutmeg
  • coarse salt
  • red pepper flakes (I use Simply Organic)
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • sherry vinegar (or any red wine vinegar)

In a swirl of olive oil over a medium-high flame, saute the garlic and red pepper for 3-5 minutes. Add the veggie stock and stir for about a minute. Begin adding the kale in batches, letting each one wilt a bit before adding the next. Once all is added, season to taste with salt, vinegar and just a touch of nutmeg (thanks Rachael Ray). Reduce flame to low and continue to cook an additional 5+ minutes, or until kale is tender. Add more stock if needed.

The dish: I know a few posts back I promised you were reading what was the beginning of a long and exciting bbq phase of the red room. Turns out that Mother Nature has made a liar of me and my grill has sat under its cover for pretty much all of June, just as it did in the chilly winter months. If you're reading this from the lovely Empire State, then you're probably wet and not quite sure what the sun looks like anymore. As it happens in life, while I was in the middle of bitching about the impact the rain has had on my biking (or lack of), I bumped into someone far worse off because of this crazy weather. I was at the farmer's market and got to talking to a few of the vendors whose crops were rotting under water with no end to the rain in site. Couple that with low attendance at the markets because people are afraid of getting wet, and you've got a recipe for disaster. Farmer's don't have it easy anywhere, and in our region where land is in pretty high demand for the never ending suburban sprawl, disastrous weather can be the proverbial straw on the camel's back. The easy solution of course, is for all of us to do our best that when possible we eat something that was grown close to home. Check around for a farmer's market in your neck of the woods, if you're around Goshen on Fridays theirs is great (Bialas Farms is my fav, but all the farms are good). Not only will your food taste better and be better for you, but you'll be supporting an important way of life that's quickly vanishing. So with this crazy weather we've been having, go ahead and put on that sweater that you packed away long before June, stop payment on the check to the global warming folks and take that cash to your local farmers market and pick up some kale or any of the other delicious veggies they have.

gnocchi in red sauce with spinach and sausage

  • 1 lb gnocchi
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 package good quality sausage
  • fresh garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • shredded parmesan cheese

In a large dutch oven or cast iron pot cook the sausage over a medium flame until just done. Remove from pot and chop into bite sized pieces, set aside. In same pan saute garlic and onion over a medium-high flame for 3-5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the crushed and diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat, cooking for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, begin to cook gnocchi according to package directions. Add spinach and sausage back to sauce. Spoon sauce over cooked pasta, sprinkle cheese on top.

The dish: Somebody sent me an email message that was titled "the death of common sense" where it went on about how stupid most of us are. While I'd like to think that I haven't grown that cynical (yet), there are certain things that leave me wondering, "what are they thinking". The now defunct no carb diet craze did just that. I can see the virtue of limiting your carbs, especially if you have health concerns that would benefit from doing so, but the diet a few years back just went to a crazy extreme. There were scores of people that were afraid to eat a carrot but poured bacon and beef down their throat with a reckless abandon. Carbs are the basic building blocks of energy for your body and without them you'd feel lethargic. Like anything else there's good carbs and bad carbs and too much of even a good thing can quickly become quite the opposite. I bring this up in defense of gnocchi, a potato based pasta (carbs on carbs, roll over Dr. Atkins). You wouldn't want to eat this every day, but as an every now and again treat it's spectacular. Just go into the meal knowing that you're indulging in something special, unlike those carb counters who inhaled backfat in the name of good health.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

dirty water dogs

  • 1 package of good quality hot dogs (Nathan's or Sabrett)

Fill up your crock pot about halfway with water, place dogs in and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

The dish: There aren't many things better than spotting the familiar yellow and blue umbrella resting on the top of a Winnebago or trailer on the side of the road. Like few other things in my life, the sight conjures up a Pavlovian reflex in me where I flick on my turn signal and slow my car down so as not to kick up a cloud of dust in the undoubtedly gravel parking area. No matter where I'm headed to or coming from I ALWAYS stop and try a dog, eager to see each vendor's take on the American classic. So if you're like me, cooking dogs at home can be a bit of a challenge as the bar is set pretty high. People typically use one of three methods to cook dogs at home;

  1. they fry them
  2. they grill them
  3. they boil them

The first two don't involve any H2O, so not replicating a good dirty water dog shouldn't come as a surprise, but the third always left me scratching my chin (what's left of it after all those dogs). I use the same brand, and yet mine come out mealy and with broken skin. Then it hit me (cue clouds parting), what's the first thing your town has you do after a water main break? You boil your water to make sure it's safe to drink. Obviously, if boiling water makes it clean, using it to cook a perfect dirty water dog makes about as much sense as grilling or frying them. The guy (or gal, as in the case of Nick's Hot Dogs, best in New Windsor/ Newburgh area) under that yellow and blue umbrella doesn't have a pot of boiling water, but rather a reservoir of warm water that the dogs sit in awhile. Using the crock pot produces the exact same effect and the taste will transport you to the shoulder of the road or a busy avenue sidewalk or wherever you eat your favorite dirty water dog.

ginger baked beans

  • 6 cans of navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 2 large vidalia onions, chopped fine
  • 5 tablespoons molasses
  • 5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup of ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce
  • adobo
  • ginger ale

In a frying pan over medium heat cook bacon until just done, remove and blot with paper towels. In same skillet cook onion for 3-5 minutes or until translucent. Add cooked bacon and onion, along with all your other ingredients to the crock pot, cook on low for 6-8 hours. Adjust seasonings to taste.

The dish: People often think of their crock pot as being purely an appliance for cold winter nights, when the days are short and no one wants to leave home once they arrive there. Visions of stews and roasts, with a warm house filled with tantalizing aromas pop into people's heads and they feel that during the summer the crock pot should sit on the floor of the closet their parka hangs in. The closet that you rarely think of and never open in between Memorial and Labor day. All of this is true, but the versatile slow cooker can be just as handy in the warmer months as well. We try to mountain bike every chance we get and there is no better feeling than coming home after a long day of hitting the trails and having a warm dinner ready to eat, or at least a hearty accompaniment waiting to be chowed down. All of this and our kitchen doesn't get heated up one single degree. So dig it out and keep it on the ready. I showed you a German potato salad a while back, and there's few things that scream out "summer" better than baked beans, so forget turning on the oven and plan to go low and slow all summer long.

basic coleslaw

  • 1 bag shredded coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or more if you're not already sweet enough)
  • poppy seeds (optional)

Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, vinegar and sugar together. Pour over the cabbage mix and add poppy seeds. Toss to coat. Let mixture sit at least one hour prior to serving. When made, the mix should look a little on the dry side as it will moisten as it sits.

The dish: I'm not even that old, comfortably in the second half of Gen X, and I went to public schools, and yet I still took Latin. Six years of it. Being a dead language and all, it has limited usefulness when trying to order a drink on a different continent, but it's great for finding word derivatives. Take for example coleslaw; I can tell you that the Latin word for cabbage is colis. I think the term slaw was invented by lazy southerners who never received the memo about annunciation, but I'm certain where the first half of the word came from (I can also tell you where plumbers got their name from, but that's a different story). Latin actually turned out to be one of my favorite classes in high school, thanks to the fact that there was a small group of us taking it and we all got along pretty well and Mrs. N (anonymous to protect the innocent, et cetera- damn, more Latin!) kept class amazingly relevant and fun. So go ahead and carpe diem and try e pluibus unum the recipes from this blog. Ilia acta est on your dinner plans for tonight, just make sure to ubi sub ubi.

potato crusted tilapia in a sour cream and chive sauce

  • tilapia fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • instant potato flakes
  • white pepper
  • fat free sour cream
  • fresh chives, chopped fine

In a bowl beat the two eggs. On a plate combine potato flakes with white pepper and salt. Dredge fish fillets in the egg and then the potato mixture. In a little bit of olive oil over a medium high flame, saute the fish for about 3 minutes per side (the topping will fall off so try to be gentle). Once cooked transfer to an oven at 350 degrees. Reduce heat in pan and add chives to pan drippings and saute for 3-5 minutes. Shut off the heat under the pan and add sour cream, mixing until consistency becomes sauce like. Spoon sauce over cooked fish and serve.

The dish: I already let you know that Lee Iacocca was my favorite childhood hero, but there were a few other runner ups. Dave Thomas, the iconic founder of Wendy's restaurants was always near the top of the list. Dave was an orphan who grew up fast and had no one to rely on but himself. He worked a variety of kitchen and restaurant jobs, always dreaming of having his own establishment. What you may not know is that Dave left his mark on the fast food industry long before anyone knew the name of his daughter with the red hair and pigtails. Working his way up through the ranks, he essentially saved Kentucky Fried Chicken from collapsing into certain bankruptcy (a fate that GM would have you believe is some kind of milestone). All the delicious menu items, Dave thought those up; that timeless red striped bucket, his invention; creating the image of the Colonel being a jovial old man instead of a crabby, fouled mouth hot head, his doing as well. It wasn't until he achieved a fair amount of success in the fast food industry that he opened Wendy's, and he stayed active in its operations well past what most would consider to be normal retirement age, especially with his means. Why do I mention all this? Simple, he was the first (and only to my knowledge) fast food executive to realize that sometimes fries just won't cut it, and every now and again people need a baked potato. Few things in American cuisine are as widely accepted as a baked potato with sour cream and chives. Not too healthy, not too decadent, simple, affordable and with flavors that taste like they were made for each other. That was the thinking I had when putting this dish together. It worked well, but I still like salmon better. Of course, after typing this I see a trip to Wendy's in my near future.

bacon roasted brussel sprouts

  • fresh brussel sprouts
  • 2 strips bacon
  • fresh garlic, chopped

Place bacon in large dutch oven or casserole dish and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until just cooked. Remove bacon and drain with paper towels. Using the same dish, roast garlic in bacon grease for about 3 minutes. Add brussel sprouts and toss to coat evenly, season with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast in oven for about 10 minutes, or until brussel sprouts are cooked but firm. Chop bacon into small pieces, add to mixture and toss to coat.

The dish: Brussel sprouts are one of those veggies that everyone seems to hate but no one has tried since they were a kid and their food choices didn't involve much other than chicken nuggets, pizza and cheeseburgers. We know that roasting veggies brings out a natural sweetness that totally enhances their flavor, and we know that bacon makes everything better (faithful reader Rebecca posted an interesting question about bacon), but roasting with bacon; it just doesn't get any better. Brussel sprouts are also loaded with all kinds of good vitamins and antioxidants that do everything from fight various forms of cancers to keep your skin healthy, which means that you'll be ailment free when you have a coronary from all that damn bacon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

rotini with summer squash and peas

  • 1 lb rotini
  • 1 bag of frozen peas, thawed for 1/2 hour
  • 3 summer squash, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Olivio
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil, chopped

Boil pasta in lightly salted water until just about fully cooked, maybe about 7-8 minutes. Scoop about 1-2 cups of the water (I recommend a pyrex measuring cup for the task) and set aside. Add squash and peas to pot and continue cooking over a high flame for about 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain mixture and return to the same pot, add 3 tablespoons of Olivio, lemon juice and enough of the reserved water to make a sauce that will cover all of the ingredients. Toss until Olivio is fully melted. Add basil and cheese and serve.

The dish: If you live in the beautiful Empire State, then you're going through this funky time where it's pretty hot out but constantly raining. I hate using the stove during the summer, but when it's wet out it's a necessary evil. This dish is great because it's a true one pot meal that only takes about 10 minutes to cook, so you can go from start to finish before your kitchen is even heated up. As always, try to use the pasta that's fortified with some good stuff like fiber and omega 3s, we like Barilla Plus or Hannaford has a similar house brand. You won't even taste the difference and you can feel good about eating a nice big plate of pasta.

honey mustard chicken wrap

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • good quality honey mustard dressing

Grill chicken until fully cooked, set aside to cool then chop into small pieces. Tear or chop lettuce into medium sized pieces, or just open a bag of mixed greens. Assemble wrap with lettuce and chicken and a pass of the honey mustard dressing.

The dish: I love making anything in a wrap because by virtue of Kim's aptitude, I get off the hook without doing too much work. It's like not knowing how to fix the photocopier at work; no one even bothers knocking on my door when the thing jams because they know I'm useless. I'm fairly certain that if I devoted a small amount of time to either that blasted machine or the flat sandwich holder, I could learn the skills necessary to master each, but why bother when those around me are so good at these things.

black bean and corn salad

  • 3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bag of frozen corn, thawed
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • green onions, chopped
  • sherry vinegar
  • olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Whisk together vinegar, oil and lemon juice, add a small pinch of sugar if desired, set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, pour dressing over the top and toss to coat.

The dish: Another variation on the bean salad theme, and as I look at it, very close to the confetti salad that was posted awhile back. Truthfully, I like the confetti salad better, but that has more to do with my preference of kidney beans over black beans. Both are tasty and easy to prepare and are a great source of all kinds of good stuff, so now that's summer's here try a salad that has a base of something virtuous like beans and isn't drenched in mayonnaise.