Thursday, June 28, 2012

Upcoming Blog Topics

Coming soon:

  1. Out with the old and in with the new! I will discuss the old ways of cooking a few dishes versus how they may be cooked today, such as some fish, such as tuna and pork.  
  2. Growing fresh herbs in pots and their use in various dishes.  I love to cook with fresh herbs from my potted garden whenever possible.  Do you?
  3. Mid-week slump?  I have a tried and true pasta bake that you can make definitely in under and hour, maybe even in thirty minutes if you're on your game!
     Stay tuned for these and more in the next two weeks!  I will become a blogging monster, just for you, gentle readers.  Also, Miss Maria may blog for you, too.  I hope she talks about pizza.  She is a expert at pizza making!

In-House Cook

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Wednesday Wellys"
Beef Wellingtons
A messy morning with my cohort in culinary messes:  Miss Maria

By 4:00PM this afternoon, it was near the century mark on the outside thermometer.  With that having been the weather norm the last couple of weeks, off and on, mostly on, we decided to cook dinner in the morning, while it was cool enough to have the house open, cool breezes flowing throughout.  

We started with the Zucchini Corn Fritters.  We amended the original recipe I'd noted in my previous blog by not only adding the zucchini, but keeping the cilantro and the garlic (not called for in the original).  Wow, did those turn out fan-tas-tic!  Very tasty, particularly with a Salsa Verde dipping sauce (store bought, this time).  

And now, the Beef Wellingtons!

There is not a whole lot of written directions to give, and my recipe is the simplest it could possibly be, and with the fewest ingredients you will Ever read in one of my blogs, gentle readers!  Here goes:

What you will need in your kitchen:
1 package "Fillo" pastry sheets, 2 rolls  (There are several brands out there, but again, you Do want the sheets)
4 filet mignon steaks, cut into cubes, about 3 inches by three inches, or 4 inches by four inches.  (your choice)
1 block or triangle, Blue Cheese
3 cups baby spinach (whole, not chopped)
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Non-stick cooking spray (for the grill)

What to do:
I know I get a bit verbose in my blog writing, but I promise to let the pictures fill you in.  I began by placing a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, dusting it with flour, and then placing the first sheet of "Fillo" pastry over it.  I brushed melted butter onto the sheet, and repeated that procedure five more times.  Each layer, including the top sheet, was brushed with butter.  I then took a grilled steak (simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled for a short time, as if only to sear the steak, not fully cook it) and placed it into the center of the pastry sheets.  I placed two teaspoons of blue cheese atop that, followed by 6 - 8 baby spinach leaves (but I should have used 10 -15 leaves).  I folded one half of the pastry sheets over the steak.  

Miss Maria took over after I demonstrated the first Wellington package.
I am demonstrating how to fold the "Fillo" pastry sheets and butter them, to form a little package, as you see in the forefront. Note the parchment paper on the baking sheet, dusted with flour.  It's a handy tip I learned.

Not being very sure of my technique, I started off using smaller steaks (three inches by three inches), and then graduated to the larger steaks.  Not too bad, right?

 We used two rolls of the pastry sheets, for five Wellingtons, each about six layers thick.  I baked them for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees (low and slow), until the packages were golden brown.  I let them rest for about seven or eight minutes before serving. 

You can see that the braver I became, the larger the Wellington packages got. 

After we used up the "Fillo" pastry sheets, I used actual pastry dough (in tri-fold sheets).  You can find them anywhere in the frozen foods section.  We cleared off the granite counter top, cleaned it thoroughly, dusted it with flour, and carefully unfolded it.  I dusted the damp corners and lightly dusted the upward facing sheet, and gently rolled it out to about 1/4 inch thick.  

Place a steak in the center of the sheet (although, more effectively and efficiently, you Could cut the one sheet into four squares and use the smaller cubes of steak.  I wanted to try (key term Try) to make a fancy package.  Good idea, but it did not work out in the end.  Still, good stuff!  My bright idea, however, was to use my pizza stone to bake the two final Wellingtons on.  I brushed the large packages with a sheen of butter and atop that, egg wash.  Worked very well as binders, as well as to give them that wonderful golden brown color we all love. 

I am folding the package, trying to keep my hand out of the way.  Oops!
I know, not that pretty, but it sure tasted good!  I used a small knife to poke vent shafts around the top of the package.  No need to do to that when using the "Fillo" dough sheets.  I baked them on the stone for about 30 minutes, again at 375 degrees.  The steak continues to cook inside the package, which is why I do only sear them on the grill.  

After I let them rest, I cut them open to show the inside.  That is when I learned that I should have used more spinach and more cheese.  Still, upon tasting, the cheese had oozed into the dough and gave the meat a savory, salty flavor, and the spinach was just a bonus!

This is a sliced open Beef Wellington package plated with a Zucchini Corn Fritter.  

 See that the cheese had oozed onto the pizza stone?  It sizzled when it spilled out!  I realize I needed to let the package rest longer. Sure looks inviting, though!

Here we are, looking like the proud parents of Beef Wellingtons!  Inside our minds, we were both thinking:  "Gimme that plate!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mexican Corn Fritters with Cheese and Cilantro

Anyone who really knows me understands that if they ask me if I would like to have Mexican food, I'm IN.  I absolutely, without reserve, pleasurably  L O V E  Mexican food.  So when I previewed my previous blog about the ribs, I shuddered and had to force myself, practically, to breathe at the omission of my love of what are, traditionally, Mexican herbs and spices.  I had written that I love "Asian, Indian, and good 'ole American" flavors, or such.  How in the world could I leave out Mexican?  I am deeply shamed.  BUT, earlier in the day, I practiced making this corn fritter dish that is a without a doubt a new favorite.  

The idea for this recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Mexican issue, from March 2012, page 39.  I changed it up a little bit, in order to make it my own.  Here are the Ingredients:

2 large eggs, beaten (the recipe calls for two, but I needed three)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, Mexican or Jack. (I had Mozzarella on hand, and so used that, but I'd use Anejo or Oaxaca any day)
2/3  cup all purpose flour  (I used more like 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup chopped green onions
2 teaspoons crushed cumin seeds  (I used my pestle and mortar)
1 teaspoon dried Mexican Oregano  (a staple in my cupboard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh cooked or frozen whole kernel corn
2 -4 tablespoons vegetable oil  (I used 4 tablespoons canola oil)
***The magazine recipe calls for 1 large zucchini, grated, which I omitted. 
**I also incorporated 1/3 cup chopped Cilantro
*Finally, I added 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped garlic (I love garlic)

 Very simply, crack and beat or whisk the eggs in a small bow. Combine all of the ingredients - except for the corn - in a larger bowl.  Add the corn and incorporate the corn well.  ****I used canned corn today (but will roast my own fresh corn tomorrow) and charred it a little with cumin seeds in a skillet before mixing with the other ingredients;  just my own spin on it. I also saved a little of the cilantro as garnish.  

Heat the 2 - 4 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  ***I ended up using too much oil.  When the oil ripples, drop a rounded dollop of the mixture into the skillet.  You should hear sizzling and see oil bubbles.  This is good!  After about two or three minutes, flip the fritter over.  It will be golden brown on the top (now).  Reduce the heat to medium, maybe even slightly lower.  Allow the other side to crisp up and become golden.  When that has happened, remove the fritters and place them on a wire rack over paper towels to drain and cool.  

When the fritters have cooled enough, they are ready to serve.  The magazine, mentioned above, also has a great recipe for fresh Tomatillo Sauce  (also on my culinary to-do this summer). ** If you have a can or jar of Verde sauce, this can be substituted as a great drizzle or dipping sauce.  *You could also make a Chipotle-Mayo dip, which would be great.  Just sayin'.

These Mexican Corn Fritters are a truly simple, easy and fresh snack, appetizer, or summer meal!

Spice Rubbed and Grilled Pork Ribs 

With Homemade Tangy Barbeque Sauce

Everybody knows someone who is a master on the grill.  I am not one of them.  Not yet.  But I am working on it.  I have been chomping at the bit for months trying to decide what kind of spice rub I would like on not only ribs, but chicken, roasts, and various other cuts of meat.  My taste buds LOVE heat, spice, and tang, all the same time.  So I Knew that when I put together my own spice rub, the spices had to incorporate Asian, Indian, and good old American flavors.  For this barbeque, here is my rub recipe.  For a three pound rack of ribs, there's no leftover spice.  If you double or triple it, you can store your rub in a tightly sealed container for upwards of six months. Here is the recipe:

Martin's In-House Cook Spice Rub
2 big tablespoons of Lawry's Season Salt
2 big tablespoons of Paprika
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Chipotle powder or, your favorite ground chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons dried, ground rosemary ((I like the wood, pine-like flavor it adds)
1 tablespoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of dried, minced onion
2 tablespoons of dried, minced garlic (Or ground garlic.  I like to roast the season mix first, then grind it)
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons (or tablespoons, whatever makes you happy) ground ginger 
1 or 2 tablespoons cumin seeds or 1 tablespoon ground cumin

Part of my rub includes some fresh ingredients:   The zest and juice of two lemons, three cloves garlic, finely minced, and one yellow or vidalia onion, quartered, and finely minced.  Combine the zest, garlic, and onion into one bowl, and the lemon juice in another.  I'll explain soon. Promise!

In a small fry pan or skillet, add all of the ingredients and roast over medium-then-low heat. Do not burn!  If you see smoke, remove from the heat.  You just want to warm them up to release their flavor, particularly the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds.  This should take no more than five minutes with a flip or stir of the pan a couple of times.   Once the rub ingredients has sufficiently roasted, remove them to a spice or coffee grinder.  Let cool for a couple of minutes before you grind.  And, if this is your coffee grinder, clean it out, or your morning coffee will contain some surprising flavors!  Remove the spice to a bowl and set aside.

Now, prep the meat.  I removed the membrane on the rib underside as I have been learning to do via books, tv food shows and live demos I have been an audience member of. It was very easy.  I was happy about that.  While it was against my better judgement, I separated my three-pound rib slab into three sections in order for them to fit on my grill.  Not that it is small, but the slab was just that, a big 'ole honkin' slab! (Happy me!)

Alright, moving on.  Drizzle and rub the lemon juice -  fresh garlic and onions over the top, fleshy side of the slab. Next, starting with the underside, rub about half of the spice rub all over it.  Repeat over the top and the sides.  Set the whole slab (or sections) aside for about half an hour.  

Meanwhile, let's talk about sauces.  Now, you can go out and purchase whatever sauce you like, but if you have a desire to make grilling your own, which I do, wouldn't you like to make your own homemade "bbq" sauce?  You already know what types of flavors I like.  You can make your sauce meet the types of flavors you enjoy.  Experiment, practice, and perfect.  Exactly what I have been doing for years.  I have finally perfected my own sauce, a sauce that marries most all of the flavors I truly savor.  Here's my recipe:

Martin's Secret (Well, Not Anymore) Grilling Sauce

3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1/2 vidalia or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grape seed oil  (or whatever oil you like to use)
2 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce and Kung Pao Sauce, each (4 tablespoons of Tamarind Sauce is great, too, in the stead of the HS or KPS!)
1 tablespoon low sodium Soy or Tamari Sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Spicy Brown Mustard 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried, ground oregano
small pinch of salt 
2 tablespoons Cento Red Wine Vinegar  (But you can use whatever vinegar you like)
1 + teaspoon of Chipotle Powder or your favorite ground chili powder, or, 2 finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo
*optional, to taste, the juice and zest of a lemon (I used it last evening in my sauce)
1 1/2 cups ketchup
2 teaspoon ground ginger, or, 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
 *One item I love to incorporate into my sauces is finely chopped, rendered bacon.  But I forgot last night. Ugh!

What to do:
Add the oil to a saucepan over medium heat.  Once the oil ripples, add the garlic and onions. Add the small pinch of salt, and cook until the onions get a little soft.  Add the Red Wine Vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, lemon juice and zest, and all of the other sauces.  Incorporate the sauces with the aromatics and simmer for about three or four minutes.  Next, add all of the dry ingredients and incorporate well, for about four minutes, followed by the ketchup.  Bring to a roiling simmer, then reduce the heat to low.  I KNOW you are saying: "Why not just put it all in the saucepan and cook it up?!?"   Well, you can, but I have learned that each layer's flavors enhance the sauce at every step.  For me, it like building a layered cake, each layer with its own flavorful attributes.  Again, that's just me.  But when making sauces, there is a step-by-step process, staring with the aromatics (onions, garlic, lemon, etc.), adding and building your sauce from there.  The sauce should take about 20 to 30 minutes, altogether, over low heat.  The longer the flavors marry, the better the sauce.

Tip:  If you like your sauce smooth, blend it.  If you do not care about that, since the onion and garlic will be very soft, you do not need to blend.  It is all your preference.  

Schools of thought:   Steam or Boil, or not to?  I have, for decades, boiled my pork ribs, but I have been hearing much more often that steaming is better than boiling, but in many cases, particularly of slow barbequing and smoking, steaming is not necessary.  I did not steam or boil my slab of pork ribs last evening.  I rubbed it with lemon juice, garlic and onion, and set it aside "to work", as opposed to a brine, even. 

To "bbq", arrange a side of the grill that is hot (to sear) and a side that is "cooler" to slow cook. Of course, the "cool" side has to have coals, but you want more heat on one side than the other.  Begin with the rib bones side down over the "hot" side.  Sear for five to eight minutes, then turn.  Afterwards, move the slab or slabs to the "cool" side and let it go for 18 minutes, without turning.  Important:  do not keep turning and poking.  Just let it go!    At this time, brush the slap or slabs with your homemade sauce. Give it a thick coating. After 18 minutes, turn and slather with the sauce, and again, let it go. 

If you prefer your meat much more well-done, leave it on each side for an additional five minutes.  If not, remove the ribs and let them rest about ten minutes before cutting them. 

To cut them, follow the meat space between each rib bone.  Use a very sharp knife for this, and cut between the ribs. 

If you like more sauce, slather the individual ribs with extra sauce.  You could also pour the remnant in a bowl and allow your family or guest or guests add their own.  


Friday, June 15, 2012

Grilled and Beer Braised Sweet Italian Sausages, Onions and Red Peppers over Garlic, Rosemary Smashed Potatoes
1 package Sweet Italian Sausage  
1 large onion, sliced or slivered
1 large red pepper, roasted, cleaned and sliced or slivered
3 cloves garlic, sliced into chips, and 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, uniformly cubed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Half stick of butter or yogurt
1 cup of buttermilk
1 large bottle or can of beer  (I used Sapporo, Japanese beer).
1 cup of chicken stock or water
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seed or cumin powder
1 - 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard or whole seed mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

What to do
Wash and cut the Yukon Gold potatoes into uniform sized cubes on a chopping block.  In addition, finely chop the rosemary and three of the six garlic cloves.  Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold water just until the potatoes are covered.  Bring the water to a boil, liberally salt the water, and boil them until the potato cubes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes in a strainer, add two tablespoons of butter to the pot and add the potatoes back into the pot.  Add the garlic and rosemary, the cup of buttermilk and three or four more tabs of butter.  Use a potato masher to smash the potatoes.  Note that I did not say peel the potatoes first.  I like the skin, even smashed potatoes.  That's just me;  if you are more comfortable peeling them first, feel free.  Set the pot aside. 
Fire up the grill, or, using a grill plate, set over high heat.  Using a towel or brush, oil the grill.  Add the sausages once the grill is hot.  You want real visible grill marks on the sausages all around.  The char is flavor!
In a large high-sided sauce pan or Dutch Oven, add 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil  (Okay, from here on out, can I please just say EVOO on all of my blogs?) over medium heat.  
Slice the onions and peppers (if the peppers are already roasted and store bought, otherwise, roast the peppers before the sausages, place them in a gallon zip lock bag, allow them to steam, remove the skin and process them), slice the remaining three garlic cloves into chips.   Open the can or box of chicken stock and open the can or bottle of beer. 
Add the garlic, onions and peppers to the sauce pan.  Allow the onions to begin sweating and softening.  Add salt and pepper and stir.  After about five or so minutes, the onions should have softened enough to begin the braising process.  In addition, the sausages should very well be grilled by this time.  

Pour some beer into a glass for yourself, or heck, if you are the only one eating, take a drink and pour the rest into the pan!  (I never said that!)  Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, cumin, chicken stock or water, and stir well, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Add the sausages into the pan or pot, snuggling them into the liquid.  Reduce the heat to medium and cover for fifteen minutes. 

Remove the lid after fifteen minutes and increase the heat.  When the liquid has reduced by half, remove the sausages to rest.  Keep the heat on to reduce the liquid further.  After a few minutes, cut the sausages at an angle.  

From here, plating is up to you.  I centered my plate with the smashed potatoes, arranged for halves on the outside of the potatoes, drizzled some of the reduced sauce (tons of flavor!) and placed the onions, peppers and garlic chips on the sides.  I could very well have placed those over the sausages and potatoes, as well.  So as I said, plating it up to you. The main thing is, ENJOY!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oaxaca Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Grilled Jalapeno Peppers

I have learned that a couple of my friends have similar recipes to this, but I learned this appetizer from watching Food Network's "Mexican Made Easy", featuring the incredible Chef Marcela Valladolid.  It was easy, straight-forward and absolutely delicious!  I wanted to share it with you, my gentle readers!  Enjoy!

This recipe could not be simpler.  The ingredients are:

1 package of bacon (one per pepper, but extras are really good to nibble on!)
6 - 8 good-sized Jalapeno Peppers
1 1/4 cup of grated Oaxaca Cheese  (You may not need that much, but I enjoyed snacking)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Oil or non-stick cooking spray

What you will need in the kitchen:

1 pair of tongs         1 cutting board
2 large plates           1 sharp paring knife
1 grill plate or barbeque        1 medium sized bowl and one small bowl
1 tea spoon or small spoon (to scoop out seeds and ribs)

What to do:
Spray the grill plate (or bbq grill) with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat the grill over medium-high heat.  Wash the peppers and dry them.  When the grill is very hot, place the peppers on the grill.  Allow them crisp up, and start to blacken.  This may take about ten or more minutes, until all sides of the peppers have grill  marks and begin to soften.  Meanwhile, grate or process the cheese and place in a bowl. Rub the dried oregano between the palms of your hands over the cheese to crush the leaves. (I added a little cumin seeds to the mixture, too). Combine the mixture with your hands.  Next, remove the peppers to a plate.  One thing I learned: Let Them Cool Down before handling!  Not long, but enough to handle them.  Using the paring knife, make a T slit from just below the stem to the tip, and cut across, carefully, to form the T.  Open the pepper like a book.  Using either the knife or the tea spoon, scoop out the seeds and the ribs.  Place the seeds and ribs in the small bowl for easy discarding.

Using your hands or the tea spoon (using your hands is easier, I learned), add some cheese to the pepper.  I kept remembering what Chef Marcela told us on her show: "Don't be afraid to over stuff the pepper."   She had said, basically, that the when the cheese melts, the volume within the pepper lessens and the cheese escaping can be hindered by the bacon as it reduces and constricts due to rendering its fat.  That's the long version, my version.  She stated it much simpler.

Once you have stuffed the jalapeno, take a slice of bacon, place it at the T, holding it with your thumb, and wrap it tightly.  Place the bacon wrapped pepper on the grill plate bacon strip end first, so it sticks together as it cooks.  When the bacon has crisped on all sides, remove and allow it to rest.

Things I learned:  Do not worry about your technique.  I took me five out of eight attempts to perfect my tightly wrapping technique.  Once you get it down, you're done, so it doesn't really matter.  In addition, Don't try to eat one right off the grill.  HOT!  Let them rest for a few minutes before chowing down.  Really, the cheese and pepper itself retain the heat for a bit, but the bacon doesn't.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  It'd be GREAT if you shared YOUR recipe with us, too!  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Raspberry Pancakes with Fruit Salsa

1 1/2 cups Bisquick  (Or, you may use your  own "from scratch" pancake recipe)
2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 - 1 1/2 cups buttermilk  (But you may use whichever milk you prefer, of course)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
3 tabs of butter (1 teaspoon each)

What to do
 Add and combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the wet ingredients, except the egg, and mix well.  Beat the egg and add it to the mixture.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the tabs of butter.  To make small pancakes, add 1/3 cup of batter to the skillet for each pancake.  When the pancakes begin to bubble, flip and reduce the heat.  Pancakes should be golden brown.

In the meantime, to make the Fruit Salsa.......

Spring~Summer Fruit Salsa  *In season*
Wash one cup of fresh strawberries and cube.  
1/2 + cups of halved or quartered raspberries
1 banana, sliced and cubed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Add the berries and banana to a bowl.  Drizzle the lemon juice over the fruit.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and combine.  Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to emacerate the fruit.  When you are ready to serve over the pancakes, stir well.  

I fried bacon and eggs and served those, along with sliced, fanned strawberries with the pancakes and the fruit salsa. 
Let me know what you think!  Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pomegranate Glazed and Grilled Pork Chops, Grilled Radicchio with Pomegranate, Black Cherry Mustard Vinaigrette, and Rosemary, Garlic Smashed Potatoes

For the Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon finely chopped, grated, or minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
pinch of cumin seeds
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or, apple cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon orange blossom honey (but any honey or agave nectar would be fine)
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Wine Country Black Cherry Mustard
1/4 cup Skylake Ranch Pomegranate Jelly
1/4 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl well, and cover, and refrigerate.  For better marriage of tastes, make the night before you plan to serve your meal. 

Radicchio Treatment
Peel off the first outer layer of leaves after thoroughly washing each head of radicchio.  Cut in to fourths, wedges.  Brush extra virgin olive oil to the sides of the radicchio.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper to each fourth.  Grill over medium-high heat, turning quartered sides about three-five minutes apart.  Serve with the vinaigrette.  

Pork Chop Treatment
Take out the chops about fifteen or so minutes ahead of time, completely thawed out.  Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper to each side.  Drizzle two teaspoons of the Balsamic Pomegranate Grilling Sauce to each chop, along with a pinch of cumin seeds, and rub into the chop.

On the barbeque grill or in-house grill plate, spray the grill with non-stick spray, or, rub the grill with oil on a towel to prevent the meat from sticking.  Using an in-house grill, initially use high heat to get the grill just about smoking hot.  Add the seasoned, glazed side of the chops to the grill.  Let cook for at least three minutes before reducing the heat to medium, medium-high (depending on your stove top).  Allow eight minutes per side on an outdoor grill to allow the meat to caramelize.  Same rules apply for in-house grills; allow the meat to caramelize.  You can flip the meat when it does not stick to the grill.

Add your spin to grilling, such as if you want cross grill marks, or marks only one way.  It's up to you and your own creativity, I believe.  When the chops are done, about eight minutes per side, as mentioned above, remove, and let the meat rest, about ten minutes.

Prepping for the Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes
 Cube two (2)  pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes.  I like the skin on, but you may peel the potatoes, of course, if you want.  Add to a large pot and add water until it just covers the potato cubes a little.  Liberally add salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook the potatoes until they are fork tender.  Be sure to toss a couple of times with a large wooden or plastic spoon to rotate the cubes for thorough cooking.  

Meanwhile, finely chop two sprigs of fresh, washed rosemary, and two or three cloves of garlic.  Set aside and cube half a stick of butter.  You may want to use more butter than this, which is up to you.  I also use about a cup of buttermilk (something I learned from my father's mom) in my smashed potatoes.  I also season with salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are done, about 15 or so minutes once the water begins boiling, and they are fork tender, pour the potatoes into a strainer over the sink.  Drain.  In the large pot, add some of the garlic and rosemary, and some of the butter cubes.  Add the potatoes back into the pot, with the stove top heat off, and add the rest of the butter, the cup of buttermilk, sprinkle the remnant of the rosemary and garlic over the potatoes, and season with salt and pepper.  Use your potato masher and go to town!  Today, I added garlic cream cheese to the mix, and incorporated two tablespoons into the potatoes.  It turned out very well. 

Serve your chops, radicchio and smashed potatoes with a sprig of rosemary for color, and enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Recipes coming soon.........

I have several recipes coming soon, but you can see the dishes now.  An album with today's date contains the photos.  Take a look.  In my original post, I mentioned that I am not a trained chef.  I am just a guy who has fallen in love with cooking and desires to learn from everyone and improve each day. This is not a "how-to" teaching blog, although I hope some viewers may learn something from me, as I would love to learn from all of you.  I do plan to download "how-to" videos, but not with the attitude that I am a classically trained Chef (Not True!), so "watch and learn".  If someone does learn something, fantastic, but if I and my viewers are able to learn from You, gentle viewers, then all the better.     Again, I hope you will take a look at my food dish photos (and again, I am Not a fancy pants photographer!), and share your constructive thoughts and tips. Thank you!  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Sunset Magazine Weekend Celebration Adventures

    I had quite an exciting day today in Menlo Park at Sunset Magazine's "Weekend Celebration".  This was my second year attending the event.  It has been my aunt's birthday present to me two years consecutively, and I love it.  It was especially great to attend it this year with her because sit may be her last year to physically attend the event. I am hoping and praying that that is not how it turns out, because she has as much fun watching, smelling and tasting the demo dishes as I do.  We are like two peas in a crazy culinary pod.  We did not get to see as much this year as last year due to her impairment, but what we did not see (in their locations around the complex) we had seen last year.  Besides, people were carrying around flowers and potted plants, including dozens of varieties of succulents, such as those featured in the succulent wall (above), so there was not much loss there.  One of my favorite exhibits where you can purchase plants, kits and other box items is the succulent booth.  There is literature to teach you how to create your own succulent wall hanging.  Last year's booth was more beautiful, but it was more"DIY" this year, and sometimes, change like that is good.

    We also watched three cooking demonstrations.  The first was Safeway's Chef Jeffrey.  His demo was Asian Peanut Noodle Salad.  I picked up the recipe later in the day, but introduced myself and congratulated the Chef afterwards on a job well done.  Last year, on a chilly, rainy Bay Area June day, Chef Jeffrey showed us how to make flat bread and pizza with Safeway's fresh pizza dough.  Look for the salad on this blog soon!  My Aunt and I picked up a sample and it was absolutely amazing. 

    In addition, it was my pleasure to watch Chef Chris Cosentino demo Spring Lamb, Anchovy and Mint.  His techniques and tips were fascinating, and yes, I took notes!  I am the only one in my family who likes lamb, so it will be one of those "for me" meals.  Still, I am excited to use the knife techniques he showed the crowd, along with his lesson on muscle tissues.  That information is important to everyone who is me, I suppose, but fascinating, nonetheless.  The Chef was not only informative, but entertaining, as well. 

        When we first arrived at the West Entrance, Aunty and I went on a shopping spree.  A mild one, due to monetary constraints, but my shopping coup includes:  Orange Blossom Honey, Pomegranate Jelly and Pomegranate Balsamic Grill Sauce, Sweet and Spicy Mustard, Black Cherry Mustard (don't hate, it is GOOD!!!), and Lavender Infused Honey.  The hamster in the wheel that is my mind has been running in overtime all day creating new recipes for these beauties!  Stay tuned! 

    The last cooking demo we attended was the IKEA outdoor stage featuring hilarious, good-sport Seattle Chef Tom Douglas.  Items he'd needed (along with a sink that had water) just were not there, but he was a good sport and like any professional, he cleverly, smartly improvised.  Crab Potato Pancakes was the dish he demonstrated.  Aunty was practically drooling, she really loves those. 

    I hope I am fortunate enough to attend next year's event.  There are many demos I would love to attend, and many more things to learn!  For more information, you can always look at Sunset Magazine's website.  There will also be a Central California Coast event in September, with many interesting outdoor activities and celebrity chefs attending.  That one I cannot attend, due to the dates, which conflict very much with work.  Doesn't mean YOU can't go! 
    Until next time, folks. Thank You for viewing and reading!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Basil Pasta With Chicken and Veggies
May 31, 2012

I will have to go into this in another post, but one of the reasons why I named my blog "In-House Cook" is because my friends and I have what has been generally called the "Standing Wednesday Night Dinner".  Wednesday is good night for most of us, who are in education, to get home at a decent time and get together to cook, enjoy conversation, sometimes a glass of wine, and dine together, much like a family.  No "SWND" this week, but I was invited to cook at a friend's house last night.  The idea for my "In-House Cook" blog came about because I go to various friends' houses to cook.  (But yes, also cook at my own place). While I do most of the cooking, usually, I do delegate sous chef responsibilities, which helps spur on the conversation and get dinner on the table a bit faster.  

Last evening's dinner was a light, bright summer pasta.  I used basil pasta for this, whereas I would normally use angel hair pasta.  Here is my recipe:

1 pound pasta  (Your favorite). 
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 red and 1 orange or yellow sweet bell peppers (roasted and slivered)
3 shallots (or one large white onion), slivered
1 cup cleaned sugar snap peas
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper  (If you become a loyal reader, and I hope you do, I often say "s and p" for salt and pepper) *I only use salt for the pasta water;  the pancetta is salt enough for dish itself).
2 tablespoons of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
1 cup curled and chopped basil leaves
Parmigiano Cheese (or your favorite), about a grated cup
4-6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, chopped (optional, but I added it)

What to do
Using a chopping block and sharp culinary knife, sliver the shallots or the onion.  Over a burner (if you have gas), char the two peppers.  Once they have blackened, remove them and place them in a large plastic zip-lock type of bag and let steam for about fifteen minutes, or more.  Mince or grate the garlic and the lemon.  Wash and halve the tomatoes.  Chop the oregano and add that to the tomatoes, along with the lemon juice. Wash and clean the sugar snap peas and set them aside in a bowl. Wash and roll the basil leaves and slice in to ribbons. Set aside. 

After about twenty or so minutes have passed, and the above is done, remove the steaming, resting peppers. Using a paper towel or a cloth towel, remove the char from the peppers.  Remove the tops, the seeds, and slice the body of the peppers into slivers.  Set aside in a bowl, or with the slivered shallots. 

In a small skillet, add the two teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the pancetta, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of the cumin seeds and pinch of left over oregano, (Dry or fresh, it doesn't matter). Brown the pancetta.  Meanwhile, boil the pasta water.  The recipe from here is like an amusement park roller coaster!

When the pasta water boils, salt  it liberally and add the pasta, spreading it around the pot. Cook the pasta just before al dente, about eight to ten minutes (read the package; remove the pasta about three minutes before it says the pasta should be done) and save a half cup of the pasta water. 

Busy enough?  Just getting started!  In a large sauce pan or high-sided skillet, add the remaining olive oil over high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the onions and the pancetta, and cook for three minutes before adding the garlic.  When the shallots/onions begin to soften, add the sugar snap peas and peppers.  Add part of the basil and the tomatoes.  

After a few minutes, the pasta should be ready.  Drain the pasta (but remember to reserve half a cup of the cooking water!) and add the pasta and the half cup pasta water to the sauce pan.  Using tongs or two wooden spoons, gently toss the pasta with all of the remaining ingredients.  The pasta will absorb the flavors and more of the flavorful water and reduce.  

Serve family in style in a large bowl, topped with fresh basil ribbons and freshly grated parmigiano cheese.  You can also serve it by the plate.  Now, time to enjoy your light, flavorful meal!  I hope you try this recipe.  Let me know what you think!  Graci!

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