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.