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.

basic hummus

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • cumin
  • adobo
  • fresh cilantro
  • juice of one lemon
  • pita chips

Place all ingredients but pita chips in food processor, pulse until smooth. Serve with pita chips.

The dish: There are times when I see some truth in the old saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree", and then there are other times I think that my family's tree must be planted at the top of a large hill in an area that's prone to heavy winds. I was thinking this over just recently when my parents joined Kim and I for a weekend away in Wilkes-Barre PA to see The Royal Scam, the best Steely Dan tribute band out there. I invited the rents figuring that my dad would love to go as he went to King's College in Wilkes-Barre and has been a fan of Steely Dan for longer than I've been alive. My mom is not a fan of SD and for that reason alone I felt the hill next to the orchard grow steeper and the winds strengthen. Kim and I decided to make a pit stop in Scranton to look at fireworks (we didn't by any silly, that would be illegal) and have lunch at one of the last surviving Ground Round restaurants remotely within driving distance. The Ground Round holds lots of happy memories for us and we were so taken with nostalgia that I asked our waitress if we could purchase the ramekin our spinach dip came in as a memento. She happily brought us out our little dish wrapped up and ready for travel, a gift from everyone at the Scranton Ground Round. Later that night at the River Street Jazz Cafe (an awesome place to see a show with great music, food and staff), we all agreed that the plate that held our delicious hummus was unique. I must have gotten wrapped up in Steely's melodies after that, because next thing I knew our waitress was bringing out our dish wrapped up and ready to travel back to New York. Turns out my mom asked the same question I had a few hours earlier and the good folks at the jazz cafe were happy to see their plate go to a good home. Playing with my new food processor, hummus seemed like an obvious thing to make and what better way to photograph it then using the dish and the ramekin that suggests my family tree might just live in a flat orchard with only a gentle breeze.

strawberry banana smoothie

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 lb of strawberries, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup fat free vanilla flavored yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk

Peel bananas and cut in half, place in blender. Add strawberries and yogurt, begin to blend. Add in milk as machine is on until desired consistency is reached. Serve cold.

The dish: 2009 has been a crazy year. Way back in December I got an awesome Christmas gift; a Cuisinart Duet blender and food processor. I'm ashamed to say that up until recently it was sitting in its original box just begging me to break it out. I finally got around to playing with it (it had instructions on how to remove it from the box) and I'm loving it. Expect to see a few more recipes that pour out of its glass blender jar or get chopped in its processor. I think I might be a little late in hopping on the whole smoothie craze, but I'm going to make them all summer and maybe even pour a little spirits in one or two.

grilled zucchini

  • fresh zucchini
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Cut zucchini in half lenghtwise, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, or better yet spay some on if you have a Misto. Grill over a medium flame for about 10 minutes, turning once.

The dish: So it finally happened, the rain stopped for about 7 minutes and I was able to unwrap my grill from its cover and fire it up. For those of you who don't know me, I have a beautiful condo (technically my wife has it, she's just cool about letting me crash here) with a balcony about the size of an unfolded newspaper. There's no chance of me fitting one of those behemoth grills that seem to be so popular, and here in sunny New Windsor our elected officials have nothing better to do than dream up inane laws that prohibit me from having any bbq. All grilling that appears here is done on the down low using a grill that's about the size of a large shoebox (hey, like Bob Dylan said, if you're gonna live outside the law then you have to be honest). If you don't like zucchini, then try it grilled, it takes on a whole new flavor. It becomes crisp and moist all at once and begins to taste like the flame without overpowering the natural taste of the zucchini. It's one of my favorite veggies on the grill and I recommend trying it even if it means chancing a visit to the local kangaroo court.