Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Recovery Meal

The season of indulgence has begun. Whether it is too much onion dip at Sam Jones Holiday Christmas Party or just that general overstuffed feeling at Fusion on the Fly we have the recipe for the cure.

Seafood and Vegetables. Get some Tilapia, Salmon, or whatever fish you like and freeze in individual 4 ounce fillets. Buy a few ginger root and keep in the vegetable container of your frig. Stock some parchment paper in your pantry. Get a bag of frozen spinach and keep in the freezer and make sure you keep some garlic on hand. I am sure you have lemons or limes on hand for cocktails so you are ready to proceed.

Slice the ginger thinly and make a bed of it on a piece of parchment paper. Place the fish on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with lemon or lime slices. You can add other seasonings or herbs if you like at this point. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and seal the edges of the parchment.

Bake 400 20 minutes.

The fish will be infused with ginger and citrus and you can serve it with some spinach sauteed with a bit of garlic. It's that easy, and you will feel better the next day when you have a bit too much of that delicious creamy brie and the office party.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday Entertaining Artichoke and Olive Dip

Home entertaining, potlucks, parties; we are all in the entertaining mode this month. This Artichoke and Olive dip recipe is one of those ever popular, no fail dishes. It tastes great right out of the oven, at room temperature and even cold. Everyone but the Vegans will enjoy it and Peta be damned I don't worry too much about the vegans unless one is paying me to cater a party.

1 cup Gruyere cheese grated
1/2 cup Parmesan grated (hold back a bit)
1 cup sour cream
2 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 14 ounce jar of artichokes drained and chopped
1 cup of olives chopped (black or green, but get real olives, not canned)

Mix it all together, use a spoon or put on a glove and squish it around. Put it in a baking dish and dust with the last of the grated cheese. Put in a pre-heated 350 oven for 30 minutes. It should be bubbly and delicious. Serve with pita bread, corn chips, or crackers.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Despite my best advice I know many of you went ahead and let Madison Avenue dictate your food tradition with the inevitable turkey. Now you have leftovers and want recipes that will make your turkey leftovers exciting. 

First, make sure all the meat is carved off of the bone. Throw the bones in a large stock pot with some garlic, onion, celery, carrots, salt and herbs and simmer all day. The house will smell incredible and you will have the basis for several good soups once it is strained. 

Now have your turkey sandwich, that's what you really wanted anyway. 

For dinner tonight mix half your leftover potatoes and all of your stuffing together. Make into small patties and press the patties into some panko bread crumbs. Warm some of the sliced turkey in the gravy and crisp the patties in a nonstick skillet with some olive oil. Serve with the warm turkey. 

TWO DAYS LATER: The stock is made and you are sick of the bird. Can you freeze it? Yes....layer the sliced turkey with chilled stock and freeze in airtight containers. A month from now you can have more sandwiches or some curried turkey salad. 

Oh no...still more potatoes...okay..

Take the rest of the mash and stir into some turkey stock. Now saute some leeks in butter and puree in a bit more stock and stir into the potato soup. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Have with a salad, you really are NOT in the mood for heavy food right now. 

For the dressing take the cranberry sauce, add some oil, vinegar and mustard. It's really a good dressing. 

Now get to the gym, Mithras is coming.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eat Your vegetables

It is the advice given to us by most of our mothers. The sad truth is that if your mother was anything like mine vegetables were viewed as a punishment rather than a pleasure. Often overcooked from cans or frozen vegetables were what I HAD to eat in order to get dessert.

Nutrition wise vegetables are our best source of almost everything. With obesity, especially among children at an all time high we really have to teach our children well. No one ever got fat from too many green beans.

Hiding vegetables in other dishes is the wrong approach. If you disguise your cauliflower in macaroni and cheese then you will teach your children to eat Mac and cheese, not cauliflower. Those cookbooks should be thrown in the garbage. Instead take a fresh approach to the vegetable word and try things. Those of us without kids can benefit from a new approach to our green friends as well.

Kids often don't like bitter. Steaming brings out the bitterness in veggies. Roast, saute, sauce a little bit. Vegetables should be a delicious delight, not a torture course.
Kid Friendly Green Beans
Take 1 lb of green beans (have your kids snap the ends off, they will love it)
2 ripe Roma tomatoes diced
Olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 425. Cut beans into thirds and toss with a touch of olive oil and salt. Throw in the tomatoes and give another toss. Add some pepper if you like. Put 'em in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes depending on desired tenderness. I like them crisp, but you can make a touch softer.
They are really delicious.

No kidding.

Figure Friend Mini Meal

4 M requested some figure friendly recipes and after that post on lard I decided to honor her request. Not that the lard is not good, but you can't eat it every day. The truth is that at least once a week I have my Veg day. No meat, no lard, no pasta, just fruits and veggies. After last weekend I decided that today should be that day.

After a breakfast of pineapple and banana I needed a substantial lunch. I went to the Vegetable man on the corner and picked up some of the thinnest, freshest looking asparagus I had ever seen. At the grocer I got a bag of pre-washed baby spinach.

The asparagus I cut into one inch pieces and drizzled with a touch of olive oil and some salt. I put in a pre-heated 450 oven and roast for 5 minutes. That's it. The best of spring freshness in minutes.

The spinach went into a hot pan with a touch of olive oil and 4 cloves of garlic chopped and cooked until just barely tan. A sprinkle of salt and it cooks in a minute. I piled both on a plate and went to town.

Followed by one of the last Tangelos of the season. The entire meal was less than 200 calories and packed with nutrition and really good.

Here is to your figure M.

Bulgarian Shopska Salad

I mention Shopska Salad in my bio and several of you have e mailed me asking for the recipe. It is very similar to Greek Salad and many others of that region. It was all settled by the Thracian's and vegetarian food predominated in that world. The Bulgarians continue this tradition with meals beginning with vegetables and salads. There may be several courses of just vegetable dishes followed by a tiny bit of grilled meat or sausage. Bulgaria has some of the most beautiful farmland and produce seen anywhere in the world so eating vegetables is always a delight.
4 medium ripe tomatoes (never refrigerate tomatoes, it ruins the flavor and texture, they will ripen in a basket on the counter)
1 medium cucumber
1 sweet pepper
1 medium red onion
1/4 pound Bulgarian feta cheese
Olive oil
Lemon or Lime juice
I prefer the finely chopped version so I cut all the veggies into small pieces and stir together with the crumbled cheese. I add a touch of oil at a time and the juice of a lemon. It can be eaten right away or stored in the frig for up to several days. You can add parsley, black olives, even chopped watermelon and it is still a good thing.
Speaking of Bulgaria, they produce some very interesting wines. Not many are currently imported but if you in Eastern Europe skip Sofia and head to Plovdiv or Melnick and really get a chance to enjoy the Bulgarian cuisine and wine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Restaurant Secrets to the Side Dishes

Get the following and stock your pantry.

Drinkable deep red wine (inexpensive Cabs are good)
Butter (a lot of butter)
Heavy Cream
Sea Salt
Black peppercorns and a good grinder

The number one mistake home cooks make is too little butter and salt. Thanksgiving is not a low fat day.

4 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt

Heat to medium and cook just until the cranberries pop, serve warm or cold. You can stir in some nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon or orange zest, but this basic savory cranberry sauce will make everyone happy. The wine gives it a depth of flavor that pairs beautifully with the berries.

Baked mashed potatoes.

3 lbs Yukon Gold, Idaho or red potatoes scrubbed well
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup butter

BAKE those potatoes until they are fork tender. (boiling is how you get the watery glue ones, don't do it. Also, keep the peel on.)

Lightly mash with a potato masher, keeping them lumpy. Stir in the butter and cream with a lot of salt and pepper. (if you want to add baked garlic, truffle oil, sour cream, etc. do it at this step.)

Pack into a casserole and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and dot with 1/2 cup of butter. Throw them back into the oven for up to an hour while everything else finishes. They will be piping hot and brown on top.

Baking gives you a drier potato capable of soaking up more butter and cream which is really what these potatoes are all about.

So what's the turmeric for?

Your gravy, or any other dish that needs it. Sometimes you get a grey gravy, it is good, but not too appealing to look at. A few dashed of turmeric will warm up the color and give you a golden hue. A little wine in your stock can give your sauces and gravies depth of flavor. Don't neglect the salt either.

Remember Alton Brown's recipe if you are determined to make the bird. Please feel free to put questions in the comments section and I will do my best to post the solution.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Roasted Root Vegetables

Many folks look at those odd irregular shaped vegetables underneath the pretty ones and have no idea what to do with them.

Buy them all, they are delicious, the pretty ones pictured above and the ugly waxy ones. They will reveal themselves as the sumptuous delectable creatures they really are.

This recipe will heap a 9x13 pan before they cook down and easily serve 10. If you are serving fewer people this Holiday make the basic and I will help with the leftovers. If you are serving more, throw some more veg in, double it or just add your favorites. It is very adaptable to quantity.

2 yams (sweet potatoes can be used if authentic yams are not available in your area)
1 large rutabaga
1 large celery root
3 yellow or white turnips
2 large apples
3 large Spanish onions
3 large carrots
11 shallots
2 large white potatoes
4 beets
4 parsnips
3 sunchokes
2 heads of garlic
1 ginger root
At least 1 cup of good olive oil
Plenty of salt and pepper

Peel everything and coarsely chop, big chunks, little chunks, uniform or not. I like to vary my shapes and sizes so the caramelize at different rates giving me a new taste sensation in each bite.

Toss with plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil.

Roast alongside your goose, pork or even the turkey if you must. They are quite adaptable to a long slow roast with an occasional stir. I usually go 4 to 5 hours in the oven. They are done wen fork tender but amazing when brown and slightly crisp.

If you have leftovers mix two cups to two cups of any stock for a great roast root vegetable stew.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A few of my favorite wines

Thanksgiving wines are always a controversy. Those who swear by Turkey tend to also swear by Zinfandel. I love Zinfandel, I am going to a blind Zinfandel tasting on Sunday hosted by Snooth .

If I meet the Zinfandel of my dreams I promise to let you know.

I did attend the 2008 Grand Tasting sponsored by PJ wine as a benefit for Action Against Hunger last night and had a great time, and found some great wines. I can't possibly write about all of them, but there are a few worthy of celebration...and with the holidays coming you will want to have some things on hand for casual entertaining as well as a few special wines for those amazing dinners you plan to cook.

The first is Garnacha de Fuego ($6.99), I did not try this wine for ages because it had the ugliest label I have ever seen. Based on that I assumed that it was swill suitable for the 99 Cent store. Brian at PJ sent me to try it and I am so glad I did. It has a depth and flavor that are surprising. It is a great wine to keep around the house for casual entertaining and Tuesday dinner. You can serve it at a party with confidence, just decant (yes, the label is that ugly).

My new favorite Chateauneuf du Pape comes from the house of Roger Perrin. It was no surprise to me as they also make my favorite budget Cotes du Rhone. We tasted the 2006, which is quite lovely now, with great dept and finish, but if you have a cellar or some cold storage put it in the basment for a couple of years and have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011. Yes, I plan my drinking ahead that much sometimes.

If you want a special wine for this year, try to Magrez Tivoli-Cuvee D'exception-Medoc. For around $30.00 you can have a wine as sumptuous as the food you are preparing. Your guests will never bring Yellowtail to a party again.

For around $14.00 you can try the Can Blau Monsant, What I love about Monsant is the acid kick that cuts through food with a high fat content, pate, goose, etc. I also love the low tones and great finish.

You don't have to kill your budget to drink well this season.

This Olive Tapenade recipe is easy to make and great to keep on hand for casual visitors. Get a few good crackers and some Mushroom Brie or other spreadable cheese and you are ready for visitors who stop by with good wishes, or gifts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green Bean Casserole

At a recent dinner party my wonderfully Italian friend Maria announced that she wanted to host Thanksgiving this year. I started running through the dishes I had planned on in my head, goose was out with her small convection oven, bread was out, roasted root vegetables were a no go...

I hesitantly expressed some reservations and got the immediate response.... "What matters is everybody be together, no? To be thankful, to be together is enough, besides I can make a pasta."

She is of course correct. So maybe I have a pasta this year. I will still play in my test kitchen and share the recipes with you folks. There will be wine, and everyone will be together and that is quite enough.

I have been getting e mail about family fights breaking out over Turkey. Hosts wanting to establish a tradition away from the marketing of Butterball and their ilk with the heavy breasted, antibiotic and hormone pumped birds, but finding family resistant, and even anger at the suggestions they veer away from turkey. I have had pleas to share the 'best' way to make a Turkey. Use Alton Brown's recipe, really, he explains it better than I can. You will have the traditional tastes and do the best possible turkey for the home cook.

I will still post the alternatives for those joining the turkey boycott, but today we attack the classic green bean casserole. I tried several variations before coming up with this green bean casserole recipe. Throw away those cans of mushroom soup and move into a version that will have fans of previous versions applauding.

1 lb mushrooms diced
I recommend shitake, saute in butter until they just begin to crisp and set aside.

4 large Spanish onions peeled and thinly sliced
Saute in a mixture of butter and olive oil until light brown and set aside.

2 lbs of green beans, stemmed and cut into thirds.
1 cup ground hazelnuts
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste

Cook over medium heat until it thickens but does not boil, mix in mushrooms and stir in green beans. Place mass in buttered casserole top with onion and bake 350 for 20 to 30 for slightly crisp up to an hour for soft beans.

You will never go back to Campbell's Soup and Durkee Onion Rings again. It's that good.

...and remember, the important thing is for everyone to be together, no?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No MORE Turkey

Instead of killing a Turkey, I want to kill the 'tradition' of Turkey that Americans have latched onto, some even calling the day Turkey day...

I am sharing two accounts of the first "Thanksgiving" feast. First of all the feasting went on for days and all manner of foods were consumed. Secondly even if by some chance they consumed a wild turkey, that bird bears no resemblance to the plastic tasting artificial creatures that now grace our tables. It would likely have been stewed, not stuffed and roasted.

We all like idea and look of the Turkey, but honestly how many people panic at the thought of cooking one. How many are dry and not very good?

You can brine, salt, or deep fry all in the hope of having a moist juicy bird but most of you will fail.

Why bother?

The point is to celebrate the harvest before the scarcity of winter sets in. Be thoughtful, be thankful. Think about the farmer's who provide this bounty.

I know many personally...every thanksgiving I am thankful to David of Berkshire berries for the eggs, honey, real maple syrup and his wife Mary for her great low sugar jams.

To Franca at Berried Treasures I am grateful for the most wonderful, crisp, minerally, snapping green beans I have ever had in my life, along with a host of other good foods.

To Mike at Flying pigs Farm for the best bacon I have ever tasted along with natural lamb that puts all others to shame.

And of course to Ed and Carol of Treelicious for growing the snappiest apples, the most savory nectarines and a whole slew of other good fruits and vegetables.

These and other farmers who feed me throughout the year make me grateful and thankful, and my day is a tribute the the hardworking folks who put food on my table year round. When people casually refer to the day as Turkey day, I get offended. So this year I boycott the bird.

My first suggestion....Roast Goose. It has all the appeal of being brown and crisp and looking great on the table and it is really hard to mess up. Most cooks will get a moist delectable bird each and every time.
Purchase a nice goose (about 12 pounds) 3 days before Thanksgiving. If your local store does not stock them ask them to order one for you.

1 gallon apple cider
4 cups dark soy sauce

Mix in a large strong garbage bag and dump the goose in. Rotate in the refrigerator for two days, in a pan in case it leaks. Remove from bag and let the goose spend 24 hours on a rack in the refrigerator to dry the skin.

Poke holes in the skin and lightly salt and pepper. You can stuff and place on a rack above a large roasting pan with a couple of cups of water.

Roast 1 hour at 375

Prick the skin again and reduce heat to 250 roast an additional 4 hours.

Check, if it is nicely browned you can remove at this point. If you want a little more brown and crispy check to make sure there is still some water in the fat reservoir below the duck and turn heat up to 500 for 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let rest in the hot oven for an additional 10 minutes.

This will give you the look of a beautiful bird on the table with no dry breast meat that one must smother with gravy to choke down

Save that fat to fry potatoes and use those bones in a stock pot for some GREAT soups.

The following are the only two written accounts of the first season of thanks that currently exist.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.