Sunday, June 16, 2019

Minted Eggplant Insalata

Eggplant appears in some form or fashion on almost every antipasti table throughout Italy. Eggplants are members of the nightshade family of plants and are closely related to tomatoes and potatoes. The fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids which is not surprising given its close relation to tobacco.

Native to India, the eggplant made its first appearance in Italy via Sicily and the southern regions. Easy to grow and abundant, eggplant is very versatile when used in cooking. The raw fruit which can be a tad bitter, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of fats and sauces, making it a good ingredient for very rich dishes. The combination of flavors in this particular variation is incredible and makes a fabulous addition to an antipasti table or can be served as a delicate Summer salad.

  • 1 medium eggplant, ¼-thick slices, degorged
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Ensure that the eggplant has been patted dry and brush lightly with olive oil. Add the eggplant slices to the skillet in batches and cook over high heat until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a paper towel and let drain until cool.

Combine the chili peppers, garlic, capers and mint in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Layer eggplant slices on a serving platter and drizzle with a tablespoon of mint dressing and continue making layers until all the ingredients are used.

Sprinkle the remaining olive oil over the top and let the eggplant marinate in a cool place for at least six hours.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What Dad Really Wants: Steak

Thanks to the nagging of the greeting-card, flower and candy industries, Mother's Day has become etched in our collective consciousness as a holiday not to be forgotten; the guilt would be too excruciating. But Father's Day, which falls several weeks later, is often commemorated with only a card and perhaps a ubiquitous (and most likely hideous) tie (that he will never wear) to celebrate the occasion. Given all that our fathers have endured over the child-rearing years; endless gamesof catch, Christmas Eves spent sweating over the assembly a variety of gifts (with instructions in German), forced politeness toward dates with odd hairdos, and teaching us how to parallel park, Dad clearly deserves better.

So on his day, let's give him what he really wants: the chance to relax, have fun and, to top it all off, enjoy a great dinner. According to an informal poll conducted by Chef Nancy Waldeck, Dads want a big juicy steak that they cook themselves (to ensure that it is cooked to his exact taste.) So in honor of all Dads on Father’s Day, we are including grilling tips and advice for Dads everywhere to enjoy their meaty treasures:

Grilled steaks require glowing coals. No flame. Let the fire burn down till a gray-ash film covers the charcoal. If fire's too hot, you dry the meat, lose good juices. A well-made fire is the essential first step in outdoor cooking. The right fire makes barbecuing smooth and simple.

The temperature of the fire needed depends on the type of meat you are going to cook. For cuts of meat such as steaks, burgers, and kabobs which you intend to cook rapidly, use a relatively hot fire. A moderate fire is fine for roasts and larger pieces of meat. For slower cooking cuts of meat such as pork chops and spareribs, use a slow fire.

Charcoal comes in two forms: lump charcoal and briquettes. Lump charcoal is in odd-sized pieces just as they come from the charcoal kiln. It is less uniform in burning quality and more difficult to handle. Briquets are ground, lump charcoal pressed into uniform blocks. They are easier to use, burn evenly, and produce a more uniform heat. They are easier to control and burn longer than lump charcoal.

Pile the charcoal in a pyramid on the firebox of the grill. You don't need much charcoal. Beginner chefs are often too ambitious, build too big a fire. After you've built several barbecue fires, you'll be able to gauge the amount easily. Add liquid lighter to charcoal; wait a minute, then light. Do not use gasoline or kerosene. Let charcoal burn for 15 to 20 minutes until the briquets are about two-thirds covered with gray-ash. Spread the briquets evenly throughout the grill. The bed of coals should be shallow (easy to control) and just a little larger than the area of food you are cooking.

The fastest way to get a bed of cooking coals (about 15 minutes) is with an electric fire starter. Most other methods of fire starting take approximately 45 minutes. A chimney is another secret for fast take off. Make your own from a tall juice can or a 2-pound coffee can. Remove ends from can. Using tin snips, cut out triangles or circles around bottom, 1 inch apart, to allow draft. Or punch triangular holes with a church-key bottle opener and bend down for legs. (While the bottle opener is out, be sure to use it to open an icy cold beverage for Dad while he labors over the hot flames.)

Place a wad of newspaper in the base of the chimney, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquets, and then light the paper from the bottom of the chimney. When the briquets are burning, add more to the top. Allow to burn about 15 minutes, and then lift off chimney (with tongs!) and rake coals where you want them.

Don't start to cook until the fire dies down to glowing coals. Coals are ready for cooking when they look ash-gray by day, and have a red glow after dark. No flames! Don't start cooking too soon. When coals are hot, tap off the gray ash with fire tongs; ashes on the briquets insulate and retard the heat.

An easy way to tell the heat of the fire is to hold your hand over the coals at the height the food will be for cooking. Begin counting "one thousand one, one thousand two", and so on. The number of seconds you can comfortably hold your hand over the fire will tell you how hot the fire is. If you can count to "one thousand two," you have a relatively hot fire; "one thousand three" or "one thousand four" is about a moderate fire, and "one thousand five" or "one thousand six" is a slow fire.

If you are cooking a large piece of meat that requires a long cooking time, plan to replenish the coals from time to time. Add a little extra charcoal around the edges after your fire is ready for cooking. Don't top your cooking fire with cold coals; this will lower the temperature more than you think. To increase heat, add warm coals from the reserve around the fire's edge.

To slow down the fire, move hot coals out to make a larger oval; to increase heat, move hot coals in to make narrower oval. This technique helps maintain the even cooking. Fire is ready only when flames die down. In broad daylight, the coals will look ash-gray and after dark, they'll have a red glow (they burn from outside in).

If drippings do flare up during cooking, sprinkle the fire lightly with water to quench the blaze. Keep handy a clothes sprinkler filled with water close by. Use only enough water to do the trick; don't soak the coals. It will take some time for very wet coals to dry out and begin to burn again. It will also reduce the intensity of the heat of the fire.

Orders for "rare" go on the grill last. When you see little bubbles on top surface of the steaks, they are ready to turn (heat forces the juices to the uncooked surface). Flip steaks with tongs and a spatula; piercing with a fork wastes good meat juices. Cook the second side a few minutes less than the first since the second side has a head start on heating. Turn only once. For 1-inch steaks cooked medium-rare, allow 13 to 15 min¬utes total grilling time. It is always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when grilling. Insert thermometer so tip is in center of meat. Tip must not touch bone, fat, or the metal spit.

For charred crusty coat, try this: Sear one side by lowering grill top close to coals for 2 to 3 minutes, then raise grill to finish same side. Turn steak, and sear second side; again raise grill and complete the cooking.

Wait until you turn steak to salt it (same for burgers and chops.) Salt and pepper the browned side and then season the other side as you take it off the grill. If you salt uncooked meat, the juices will be drawn out and you'll lose good flavor.

It is important to know how to carve a big steak, like a porterhouse or a sirloin, so that one person doesn't rate most of the choice portions, and another person get the tag ends. First remove the bone, cutting very close to it. Now cut across the full width of the steak, making 1-inch slices and narrowing them a little on the tenderloin side. Be sure everyone gets a section of the tenderloin. If steak has a tail piece slice it last to serve for second helpings.


When the steaks are grilled to perfection, serve them sputtering hot with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon. With the grill already “fired” up, it's a cinch to grill a few ears of fresh corn and some thick slices of red onion that have been brushed with olive oil. With some of Dom's potato salad, peach and mozzarella salad, and delicious grilled watermelon for dessert, you will have well-rounded and must-deserved treat for Dad on his big day!
June 19, 2011

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Roasted Carrots with Sorghum Syrup and Caraway

It is no secret that we have been trying to eat better and lose weight. Lofty goals during the time of year when you cannot swing a stick without hitting Valentine's Day chocolates and Easter candy. Supermarket carrots are always a healthy if not mundane and tiresome alternative, but with fresh carrots popping up in gardens and farmer's markets, perhaps they deserve another look.

Carrots respectable fiber content is a key fat-fighting feature, half of which is the soluble fiber calcium pectate. Soluble fiber may help lower blood-cholesterol levels by binding with and eliminating bile acids, triggering cholesterol to be drawn out of the bloodstream. Additionally, carrots have little competition when it comes to beta-carotene. One half-cup serving of cooked carrots has four times the RDA of vitamin A in the form of protective beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is thought to ward off cancer and help to prevent heart disease due to its antioxidant qualities. The National Cancer Institute is studying the entire family of umbelliferous foods, of which carrots, celery and parsley are members, for protective effects. A recent Harvard University study suggests that people who eat more than five carrots a week are much less likely to suffer a stroke than those who eat only one carrot a month.

Yada, yada, yada. Let’s face it; those little carrot nuggets found in every school lunch box are BORING. Carrot soup; blah. But… roasted to bring out the natural sugars, now we may be getting somewhere. Add some sorghum syrup and a few caraway seeds and we are in business.

Sorghum syrup, also called sweet sorghum, is made from juice extracted from sorghum cane plants, which are grown in the Southeastern United States. Sorghum syrup contains no fat, cholesterol or protein and is a rich source of nutrients like manganese, vitamin B-6, magnesium and potassium. This sweet syrup can be used on pancakes, biscuits or as a topping for ice cream. It is sometimes used in baked goods as a substitute for molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup and as a vegan alternative to honey. Caraway seeds add a nice cumin-like warmth to dishes while aiding in digestion and boosting iron and calcium intake.

2 pounds baby carrots
1 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, smashed
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup sorghum syrup
¼ teaspoon caraway seeds

Preheat oven and pan to 400°F. Wash and remove tops from carrots leaving 1 inch of greenery on each carrot. (if they have them.) Rub carrots with olive to ensure that they are fully coated and sprinkle with salt and pepper before placing them on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for a minute. Remove from the heat, and stir in wine, syrup and caraway seeds. Return to the heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy.

Drizzle the syrup over carrots and toss to coat. Bake for another 10 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Transfer to a serving dish and pour pan juices over the top before serving. Have leftovers? Don’t throw them away. They make a much better snack than those orange nugget aberrations.



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Friday, February 15, 2019

Bourbon Butterscotch Blondies

Dare I say it? I can live without chocolate. Now, I am not saying that I don’t enjoy a Godiva truffle or a fudgy brownie from time to time, but I do not crave the sweetened product made from the seed of the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree the way some people do. Yet, like the other members of our family, I do have an insatiable sweet tooth. Enter the interminably adaptable blondie.

Of course, this recipe is nothing new. This easy, one-mixing-bowl recipe was one of the first I attempted as a teenager. Denser than chocolate chip cookies and more complex than brownies, these caramel-flavored bars can be customized to suit any taste. Like Congo bars (which typically contain coconut), blondies can be made with a variety of fillings like nuts, dried fruit, toffee, or any other chunky candy for added texture. Seasonal combinations could include cranberry- almond, mint-chocolate chip or cinnamon-raisin. While blondies aren't usually frosted since the brown sugar flavor tends to be sweet enough, we will let your sweet tooth decide if should add a layer of chocolate ganache or buttercream icing.

  • 1 stick margarine, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 7" x 11" baking dish. Mix the melted margarine with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then bourbon. Add in the dry ingredients; baking powder, salt and flour. Once the batter is well combined, stir in nuts and butterscotch chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the middle. A toothpick It is better to err on the side of caution with the baking time. In my experience, folks rarely complain about a gooey cookie.

Allow the pan to cool on a rack before cutting them. I cut them into 2" bars so it seems that there are more of the scrumptious little treats.

January 25, 2014

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

National Soup Month Seafood Chowder

Soup is one of the oldest forms of food right up there with bread.  Although it was not until the invention of waterproof containers, about 9,000 years ago, that soup came into existence, the fact that an entire month is devoted to celebrating soup is a testament to its continued universal popularity.

Soup can be dated back to about 6,000 B.C. and was first made of hippopotamus (disgusting, eh?). Soup is made by combining ingredients, such as meat, vegetables or beans in stock or hot water, until the flavor is extracted, forming a liquid meal. There are lots of variations on the basic theme of soup, each offering a wide range of nutritional benefits.

Soup, first known as "sop," was originally a piece of bread served with some type of broth. People used to pour sop over a piece of bread or over broken off chunks of bread in a platter allowing it to soak up all the broth and then they would eat it.  As time went by sop was placed in deeper bowls and the liquid became the focal point instead of the bread. In modern day, the word sop is used to define the act of sopping up food. 

Every country in the world has soup recipes and family traditions from long ago so it comes as no surprise that soup is a favorite in most households. We have all been nursed back to health with chicken noodle soup, warmed on a frigid day by a hot bowl of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and celebrated holidays with green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup.

New England-style chowder is a favorite in our family with the ingredients varying depending on what is fresh at the market and what we have on hand.  This is the basic formula, but don’t be afraid to experiment to create a chowder that will become your own family recipe to be handed down to the next generation.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ lb. country ham or bacon, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 6 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. (30 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 lb. clams (and juice), chopped
  • 1 lb. cod, skin and bones removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

Heat a medium skillet over low heat adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add ham and cook for 5 minutes and then add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until soft.

In a separate stock pot, bring stock and bay leaves to a simmer. Add diced potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until just tender.

Add ham and vegetable mixture to the stock pot and stir to mix well. Then add shrimp, clams, and fish, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Next, add cream and season chowder with cayenne, salt, and white pepper.

Remove the bay leaves and serve hot with parsley and Old Bay seasoning. We put some hot sauce on the table too.


January 21, 2012

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

12 Days of Holiday Cookies

 
There is nothing like the scent of vanilla wafting through the house as
the holiday cookies are baking. We have compiled some of our family favorites for you. 
Simply click on the picture to be taken directly to the recipe!

          

          

          

          
12/12/15

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Save The Pumpkins Hummus

We never seem to notice the humble pumpkin until holiday time, but really, we should. Their beautiful orange exteriors are the perfect complement to the hues of autumnal foliage that signal the harvest season which we honor on Thanksgiving Day. While all are edible, nearly 95 percent of all pumpkins grown in the U.S. are carved into those hallmarks of Halloween: jack-o-lanterns.

In addition to their decorative colors and sizes, pumpkins boast unexpected health benefits as well. Pumpkins are a high-fiber, low-calorie food that's loaded with nutrients including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 20 percent of the recommended vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Pumpkins also have carotenoids which can help keep skin wrinkle-free and their seeds are filled with phytosterols, which are known for reducing LDL or "bad" cholesterol.



With the current campaigns to reduce food waste trending nationally, perhaps it is time to take those remnants from jack-o-lantern carving and toss them in your morning smoothie or roast them with some cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted pumpkin is excellent when added to rice, mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese for an added boost of color and seasonal flavor. If you're looking for a high-fiber snack that's perfect any time of year, just try mixing some roasted pumpkin with some chickpeas to make a super-nutritious dip that's perfect for entertaining.

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cubed
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Process beans in food processor until nearly smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add pumpkin, tahini, cider vinegar, garlic and spices and process until smooth, scraping down sides periodically. Tahini adds a subtle sesame flavor and depth to hummus. Don’t have tahini, no worries, you can substitute the nut butter of your choice, add a few drops of sesame oil or leave it out entirely. Once the hummus is full combined and smooth, taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Serve in a pretty bowl and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and top with some toasted pepitas. A dusting of paprika also makes a gorgeous and colorful garnish.


October 27, 2016

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Labor Day Menu Planner

Stay relaxed while you entertain on this much-anticipated day off with some easy cookout ideas. When it's time to eat, enjoy the fruits of your labor, because that's precisely the point of this lovely summer holiday which won't last much longer! We have put together a list of our favorite Labor Day recipes. We hope they will become your favorites as well!

Just because the summer is winding down, doesn't mean it's time to pack away your grill:

And these chilled sides are excellent accompaniments that can be made ahead:

And what summer party is complete without a frozen dessert?
Lastly, don’t forget something to keep the kids from underfoot and away from the fiery grill. Yard games of bocce, corn hole or horseshoes are always popular and you can NEVER go wrong with bubbles. Try our mixture for the Ultimate Bubble Elixir and get ready for the squeals of delight!

Be safe and enjoy a safe and well deserved three-day weekend! And, don’t forget to designate a driver or enjoy the night air by walking home when possible.


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