Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kiev-style Chicken with Risotto

I'm so out of practice blogging that I forgot to snap a photo before I sat down to eat. So sorry. Dinner tonight was chicken breasts from Bramble Hollow Farm that I treated in the same manner as the classic, Chicken Kiev. I de-boned the breasts then pounded them thinly and wrapped the meat around a frozen log of compound butter which I made with some fresh dill, parsley and sorrel that I clipped out of the herb garden this rainy afternoon. The little stuffed packages then got dredged through flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before a gentle sauté and a few minutes in the oven. While the chicken cooked, I whipped up a risotto with some homemade chicken stock, arborio rice, a couple of chopped leeks, and some strips of fire-roasted sweet red pepper. I rounded out the meal with a head of broccoli that Dick cut this morning. We eat well.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Amanda LeClaire's Baby Shower

I did some food for a friend's baby shower this afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't get many good photos, but I'll share the best ones with you here.

Little Phyllo Cups with Shredded Peppered Turkey Breast, Tomato Jam, and Alfalfa Sprouts

Cranberry & Feta Cream Cheese Pinwheels on Spinach Flatbread

Crisp Crudités with Cheese Slaw

Fresh Fruit Tray with Assorted Cheeses (no photo of the cheeses, sorry)

Mini Spinach and Gruyere Quiche Wedges

I didn't get photos of the whole spread which also included Chesapeake-Style Crab Cakes. I'll do better next time.

Curried Eggplant & Okra Stew

This was absolutely amazing! Sautéed cubed eggplant, onion, ginger, garlic, ripe jalapeño, and okra, all simmered in coconut milk with curry powder, tomatoes, and lashings of fresh basil. Sided by steamed basmati rice, this made a very satisfying late summer garden dinner.

Slow Roasted Pulled Pork BBQ

I started with a shoulder roast from our Bramble Hollow Farm hog. It rested in a molasses brine for three days before being placed over low indirect heat on the Weber grill about mid-day on September 5. After about 4-1/2 hours of smoking and roasting, my pork shoulder had that wonderful smokey caramelized outer crust. I let the pork rest for about 30 minutes before tearing into it with my hands, separating the meat from the funny jiggly parts. Once the meat was pulled apart into big hunks, I roughly chopped it into manageable bite-sized bits. This was good pig with plenty of crunchy outside bits evenly distributed throughout the moist tender meat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesdays, we do kid-friendly suppers because my niece and nephew, Sidney and Samuel, eat with us after Samuel's afternoon guitar lesson. Today was pizza day. We get our pizza dough from a local pizzaria here in town, New York Pizza, for $1.95 each. (Can't beat that, huh?) Then, we pan the dough up and top it with whatever we've got in the fridge or pantry. The pizza in the top photo was no sauce, olive oil, fresh garlic, slivered onion, diced bell & banana peppers, cherry tomatoes, slices of leftover new potatoes, basil & oregano, and parmesan & fresh mozzarella cheeses. The bottom photo is more traditional with red sauce, diced ham, sliced summer sausages, parmesan & fresh mozzarella. We put onions and peppers on half of the meat pie to please both kids and adults. This is good pizza, I tell you, and so easy to make.

Pecan-Crusted Salmon with Sorrel Sauce

Baked wild-caught salmon fillet with a crust of chopped pecans, fresh basil & tarragon, and butter, plated with a sauce of fresh sorrel, shallot, white wine, cream, and a squeeze of lime juice. The sides are steamed new potatoes that Dick dug yesterday morning and I cut a mess of chard just before I started cooking dinner. The chard is sautéed in a bit of olive oil with some julienned onion and the chopped chard stems. The general consensus was that this was a delicious supper in the little red kitchen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm Not Afraid Of No Eggs

After a trying day at the Freakshow, the last thing a chef wants to do is come home and have to cook, and eat, a big ol' complicated supper. Today was one of those days. The remedy to this chef's ills was a quick, not so bulky, tasty meal to nourish his tortured spirit.

All the way home from work I kept thinking "omelet, omelet, omelet". Upon landing in the little red kitchen, I pulled my caddy of fresh cackleberries out of the fridge, ventured to the backyard herb patch with my kitchen shears, and shredded a couple of cheese odds-and-ends that were tossed aside in the cheese drawer of the icebox. I threw together a quick little salad of romaine, tomato, and avocado. Then, I chopped up a scallion with the herbs that I had just gathered; some dill, tarragon, chives, and parsley.

In just a very short time I had a simple and satisfying little meal ready for the eating. I'm not afraid of no eggs.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Backyard Taboulleh

Not exactly a traditional treatment of taboulleh, but I didn't stray far. First of all, I gathered copius amounts of parsley and mint from the herb garden. I also added a wee bit of basil just because I wanted to, and the last bit of a fading bunch of cilantro from the vegetable drawer in the fridge. When I went there, I found that I was fresh out of scallions. So, I went back to the herb patch and grabbed a handful of fresh chives to stand in for their sturdier cousins. After thoroughly washing my verdant harvest, I pinched off the biggest part of the stems and spun dry the greenery in my salad spinner. While all this was going on, I had a half-cup of medium bulgur wheat soaking in a bowl of hot water for about 30 minutes. After chopping the herbs and draining the bulgur, I combined them in a bowl and added about a half-cup of good olive oil and the juice of one large lemon. To finish the salad, I went back to the garden and picked a fair amount of ripe salad tomatoes. (At this point, I'll interject something: There is nothing better than going to your backyard garden to gather ingredients for something that you're cooking in your kitchen. Just saying...) A quick rinse of the tomatoes, then a little rough chopping and into the salad they went, still warm from the sun. Toss everything together, add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust with extra lemon or oil, as you like.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Eatin'

I won't bore you to death with every little detail, but I will tell you that, yes, I know I went overboard in the kitchen today. I cook for a living every day at work. Then, on my day off I cook like a madman here in the little red kitchen. It's insanity, I tell you. Pure insanity. I'll just say that the garden made me do it. From top to bottom: Oven-BBQ'd Bramble Hollow Chicken, Melted Tomatoes, Baby Carrots cooked with Purple Viking Potatoes, Beet Greens and Chard with Caramelized Onions and Israeli Couscous, Cucumber Salad, Fresh October Beans cooked with Okra (thanks to Brandon Stevens for the inspiration), Roasted Beets, and Halifax County Cantaloupe. Mighty fine dinner tonight, if I do say so myself.

Melted Tomatoes

Also known as "tomato confit", these rank among my favorite cooked preparation of tomatoes. Simply core fresh tomatoes, then cut them into chunks. Toss the tomato chunks with some onion (or scallions or shallots) and/or fresh garlic, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Throw them into a baking dish with some sprigs of fresh herbs (today's herb was thyme) and slide them into a 350º oven for about 40-45 minutes. They'll be ready to eat when the flesh kind of collapses and the skins begin to blister. If you continue to cook them for a bit longer, maybe up to an hour total, the juices will evaporate some and they'll be especially savory. These make a fantastic side dish to most any dinner, or are quite good as your main dish with some crusty bread and a simple green salad. I've been known to eat an entire dish that way. Whe you're feeling adventurous, try them over pasta or polenta. If your tomatoes taste a bit too tart, don't hesitate to add a pinch of sugar or a little honey to take the edge off. Another thing I've done with my melted tomatoes is to run them through a food mill to make an incredible roasted tomato sauce. The possibilities are endless. Top them with some cheese during the last few minutes of baking. Crack a couple of fresh eggs on top of the tomatoes and continue baking until the eggs are set to your liking. After cooking and cooling your melted tomatoes, chop them to make a delicious salsa or topping for bruschetta. OK, now go melt some tomatoes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cuban Pork Roast

One of my very favorite ways with a pork roast, specifically a shoulder roast, is to marinate it Cuban-style then oven roast it. The roast you see in the photo above is the last piece from our locally pastured hog that we got from Bramble Hollow Farm in Montvale last fall. I took that bad boy out of the freezer last night and set it down in a deep bowl that has a snap-on lid. Then I mixed up a Cuban-style marinade using freshly squeezed orange, lemon, and lime juices. To those juices I added a spice paste I made with my mortar and pestle; toasted cumin seeds, dried oregano, fresh garlic cloves, coarse salt, and ground black pepper. Then, I stirred the whole concoction together with some good olive oil and poured it over the roast in the bowl, placed the lid on the bowl, and let it marinate overnight on the kitchen counter. This morning I turned the roast over and rolled it around in the marinade and let it finish marinating for a few more hours.
Then, into my cast iron dutch oven and into a moderately-hot oven it went. After about an hour, I removed the lid from the dutch oven and returned it to the oven for two more hours, turning the roast over about halfway through that uncovered phase of the cooking. Once the internal temperature reached about 160º to 165º, I took the pot out of the oven, set the roast on a platter, and covered it with a piece of waxed paper for a few minutes. I added some water (about a cup, I guess) to the dutch oven and stirred to combine the water and the pan juices. Then, those pan juices got placed into one of those funny looking "separator" type pitcher/measuring cup thingies to settle for a few minutes. While the jus was resting, I pulled the pork roast apart discarding the bone and any jiggly bits that I deemed inedible. Once the jus had a chance to separate, I poured those delectable flavors back over the pulled pork on the serving platter. Going for less than traditional sides seemed to be the thing to do tonight, as I wasn't really in the mood for beans and rice. So, I cooked a pot of stoneground grits with some fresh corn cut off the cob, a couple of sliced scallions, and a chopped red bell pepper from the garden. Just when the grits were ready to serve, I stirred in some chopped fresh basil and a knob of good butter. Also, I made it out to the backyard garden this afternoon before the rain came and cut a right good mess of chard. After washing the chard thoroughly (in 3 changes of water!), I separated the leaves from the stems and sautéed the chopped leaves with some julienned onion and chopped fresh garlic in a bit of olive oil. I'm saving those chard stems to make pickles with on Wednesday. Anyway, we ended up with a fantastic dinner made mostly of homegrown and locally procured ingredients, once again. See? It's easy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tomato Jam

I don't think anyone would disagree that one of summer's most generous gifts comes in the form of homegrown vine ripened tomatoes. A healthy harvest of plump, brightly colored, sweet and juicy tomatoes is just about as great a reward that any home gardener could wish for. Alas, as wonderful as the bounty of the tomato vine is, the harsh reality is that it is a fleeting reward. Aside from canning and freezing homegrown tomatoes, one of the tastiest ways I've found to preserve this fine summer fruit is to put up a few jars of tomato jam. My favorite version is Mark Bittman's recipe that he shared in his August 8, 2008 New York Times Dining & Wine column. This stuff is amazing on hot buttered biscuits, crusty toasted artisan bread, or as a topping for goat cheese or a wheel of gooey brie.

Fried Chicken

Tonight, I fried up some of our Cornish Cross chicken from Bramble Hollow Farm for dinner. I took it out of the freezer late this morning and let it thaw in a pan of buttermilk which, by the way, is a fantastic marinade for chicken. When it was time to cook, I shook off the excess buttermilk, dredged the pieces through some seasoned flour, and plopped them into a pan of moderately hot oil. I let the chicken brown nicely on the first side without disturbing the pieces. When a good crust had formed on that side, I carefully turned to brown the other side. After the second side had browned, I started "working" the chicken by gently turning and rotating all of the pieces until it was cooked throughout to an internal temperature of about 180º.

Mom made a pan of gravy to go with my mashed potatoes. I cooked some English peas from out of the freezer and I made a pan of what I call "melted tomatoes"(I'll explain that in a later post). Needless to say, the five of us cleaned our plates. I think I'll coma now...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garlicky Marinated Zucchini With Soy And Sesame

First of all, why does the "k" get added to "garlic" in its "garlicky" form?

Now, here's another delicious way with zucchini. This one is a raw salad, if you want to call it that. I do. Thanks to "Not Eating Out in New York" for the inspiration.

Zucchini Marinated with Garlic, Soy Sauce, & Sesame Oil
(makes about 6 side dish servings)

1 lb. (weight after prepping) zucchini, halved lengthwise (quartered if large), then seeded
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil

Slice the halved or quartered zucchini crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place zucchini in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine well. Place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours to marinate and chill thoroughly. Eat.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Color. It's What's For Dinner.

Tonight we ate our colors for dinner. We had a Capri salad of juicy garden tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and bright green basil leaves. The only enhancement the salad got was some good crunchy salt, a grind of black pepper, and a drizzle of good olive oil, and that made it perfect. For the main course, there were sweet potatoes that Mom & Dick found at the Food Co-Op this week and some Bright Lights chard that Dick brought in from the sweltering heat this afternoon. (By the way, at 8:00 p.m. as I write this post it's 93º outside.) Mom simply baked the sweet potatoes in their skins which we peeled off before plopping them onto our plates and dressing them with butter and a bit of crunchy salt. The chard was sautéed in a smoking hot pan in a drizzle of olive oil with some of our homegrown garlic. So simple, so good.