Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Refresh in the Heat

Yesterday was HOT. Like, Africa HOT!! Who wants to cook. Really! Who wants to make the kitchen even hotter? I know I don't. I don't even want to go and turn on my back yard patio BBQ grill. So, one needs to be creative to beat the heat. And doing this will require you to go against the grain and not use heat to make a meal. In fact, its quite easy to make refreshing meals without using heat/fire. So, i would like to introduce to you a little something called "Pico de gallo". Now, I know for some this may sound intimidating, but, its quick and easy and can accompany many different items.


2 Hydroponic Tomatoes (my choice for flavor but any tomato will do)
1 Medium Red onion
1/4 Cup fresh Cilantro chopped
2 to 4 Fresh Serrano (seeded and minced)
1/2 Cup Pine nuts
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a bowl and gently combine .

To accompany this I would recommend a baguette sliced into little thin wafers.

Also a refreshing garden salad pick from your garden (if you have one) would be a wonderfull item to add your Pico de Gallo into.
So, this simple little recipe will make your afternoon or evening meal a nice break from the "OMG my Kitchen is Friggin HOT and I feel nauseous!" So have a break on me and sit back, relax, feel fresh.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flex Your Mussels

My delight has always been fresh seafood. And, like http://bizarre-blog.travelchannel.com/ by Andrew Zimmern and http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelchannel.com/?fbid=I3Q7Nr6ykI9 by Anthony Bourdain, I will try just about anything from the sea. My most favorite item just below Calamari would be Mussels. My very 1st experience with them was in my beloved city of San Francisco. So allow me to share with you how to select, prepare, cook, and serve Mussels.

Varieties: The blue mussels native to the Pacific Northwest may be wild-gathered or farmed. You can tell them apart because wild mussels are rough, while farm-raised muscles have a clean, smooth shell. Green mussels from New Zealand are larger. Mussels are sold live, frozen whole, as frozen or canned meat, sometimes smoked.

Buying and storing tips:

Quality mussels are easy to recognize. Fresh mussels smell clean, like the ocean, and the shells of live mussels are tightly closed. If the mussel is slightly open (no more than 1/4-inch), tap the shell, and a healthy mussel will close it within 30 seconds. Refrigerate mussels in a bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Never store mussels in water or in an airtight container—either method will kill them. Mussels should be cooked as soon as possible, but keep for up to a week. To thaw, place mussels in refrigerator overnight. To thaw more quickly, wrap mussels in waterproof plastic and place in a sink with cool running water, allowing about 30 minutes per pound.

Preparation Types:
Inspect mussels to make sure they are tightly closed. Just before cooking, clean wild mussels by scrubbing with a stiff brush and pulling off the beard with a quick tug. Cultivated mussels need only be rinsed in cold water. To remove meat, either steam open or pry shells open and pick out meat.

Steaming: Place 1/4-inch water (wine and seasoning optional) in the bottom of a large pan, and add mussels. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until shells open (four to five minutes). Throw away mussels that don’t open. Serve mussels in bowls with broth.

Pan-frying: (this is for the Mussel meat ONLY) Heat frying pan, then add butter or oil. Add mussel meat and sauté until brown, about two to three minute.

Additional Recipe I use more often than not:


2 cloves garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bread
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 cups white wine
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1 baguette, halved lengthwises


Heat grill to high. Sprinkle garlic with a pinch of salt and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the garlic to a coarse paste. Heat the oil in a stockpot on the grates of the grill, add the shallots and garlic and cook until shallots soften. Add the wine, bring to a boil and stir in the mussels. Cover the pot and cook the mussels until all of them have opened, about 6 to 8 minutes, discard any that do not open.

Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the tarragon. Pour the mixture over the mussels and serve immediately with grilled bread.

Brush cut side of baguette with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill, cut side down until lightly golden brown.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Simple Rib Dinner

There are many things I could do in the kitchen to jazz a dinner up to make it haute cuisine. But seriously, I have 2 small children that dig hot dogs and dads famous chip sandwiches with root beer. So, I found a simple "in between" dinner that severs both the kiddies yearning for yummieness and my wife's and mine yearning from something a bit more complicated than Mac N' Cheese.

It starts in the backyard in our Veggie and Herb gardens. this year we decided to grow LOTS of lettuce, Spinach, and Arugula. Together in a salad they come combine nicely. I would suggest not to overkill with the Arugula, because they can be bitter and overwhelming. the following is the general amounts I recommend when making the salad.

1 part lettuce
1 part spinach
1/4 part Arugula

Vola!!! Home Grown Salad!

Now, I would like to admit i cook my ribs from scratch but i don't. the Kids and us love Lloyd BBQ Ribs that we get from our local store. They are good and simple to cook. The kids eat them up and leave the hot dogs on the plate. These ribs are pre-cooked and packages with there own BBQ sauce. The meat just falls of the bone and if your carefull not to overcook them as you bring them up to temperature, the meat stay wonderfully moist.

Here are a few pictures after I have pulled them off the grill and then cut them up for the kids.

and of course no dinner would be complete without some fresh corn on the cob

So, as you can see, simple. The kids love this meal and it give Mom and Dad a break from the kid foods the sometimes dominate the kitchen table at our house.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Simply Scallops

When my wife Amy and I spent vacation in Hawaii, fresh seafood was at our beck and call. So I bought some fresh Scallops at a local market. I was trained that when it comes to Scallops, judgeing freshness is mostly smell then looks then feel. If they smell fishy, best to keep moving. If they smell like the ocean then they are worth further investigation. Next, you want them to feel firm and look milky white. Most scallops you buy at the store have been soaked in a liquid solution that keeps them looking white. So you'll need to drain and rinse them thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels. If you're lucky, your local store will carry "dry-packed" scallops, which haven't been treated with this liquid. If you can get these, you don't need to rinse them. If they meet this critique, then off to the kitchen you go.

Scallops are not complicated things. they are actually very simple and easy to prepare as a main dish or just a little something to indulge in. Allot of people have texture issues with Scallops and/or have had fishy tasting experiences. This is common in areas that Fresh Scallops are hard to come by, like Wyoming, were I live. I say the following recipe will serve you well for both frozen or fresh. Shoot for fresh if you can but deal with Frozen if you have too.

Step 1 Seasoning

simply season scallops with Kosher Salt

Step 2 Prepping the Pan

Heat a nonstick saute pan over a high heat, and add a tablespoon of clarified butter (or raw, unsalted butter) and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. The oil/butter mixture needs to be very hot before you add the scallops — you should actually see just the tiniest bit of smoke

Step 3 Applying the Heat

Place the scallops flat-side down in the hot pan. Don't overcrowd the pan, or you'll lower the pan temperature, causing the scallops to be steamed rather than seared.
Another important tip: Once you've placed the scallops in the pan, DON'T TOUCH THEM! If you give in to the temptation to move the scallops around the pan, all you'll be doing is preventing them from forming the nice brown crust that you want. Be strong! Resist the URGE!Because of variation in scallop thickness, pan temperatures and so on, it's not easy to pinpoint an exact cooking time. But after a couple of minutes, it's OK to peek underneath. If you see a nice, caramel-colored crust on the underside, they're ready to flip.
Step 4 Removal from Heat

One of the easiest things in the world to do is to overcook scallops, so be very careful here. The scallops should be removed from the pan and served while their centers are still slightly translucent (you can check this by viewing them from the side), because they'll continue to cook after you take them off the heat.

They should still be quite springy if you press them with your thumb. If they are very firm or stiff, they're already overcooked.

Step 5 Service
Scallops start to turn rubbery if you wait too long to serve them, so get them on the plate right away. And be sure to serve them with the beautiful caramel-colored crust facing up!

If you like, you can melt a bit more butter in the pan and drizzle it across the scallops right before service


There are a few simple things you can do to add flavor. For instance on Step 1 wrap the scallops in Pancetta before going to step 2. I usually tuck the ends of the pancetta into the fold to make them stay during cooking, but if you would rather not you can pin them "very gently" with a toothpick or Sprig of thyme.

Also, on step 5 sprinkle some sesame seeds over the scallops. Toasted sesame seeds also add yet, another degree of depth and flavor

There are simply thousands of things you can do with this basic recipe.

Cup O' Joe

Morning cup of Coffee. That first sip. Few words and descriptions can justify the feeling. I don't know about everyone, but I have mine down to what I deem as the best balance. Coffee, Cream, and Sugar to a specific amount of coffee in a specific size coffee cup. If any of that changes, so does the size and measurements to maintain that "perfect balance".

lets start with the coffee. After all, it is the base of your delight. Coffee isn't cheap, but if you buy cheap coffee, you get the same result. So, rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a coffee snob and we tend to try and buy coffee that's on sale. We try to stear clear of the common Coffee's that we jokingly refer to as "Smokers Coffee" i.e Folgers, Maxwell House etc. Since Starbucks is readily in most stores we shoot for that as our coffee of choice when on sale. I have liked Starbucks for some years and of all the hundred of roasts I have tried, I enjoy "Caffe Verona" as and overall choice.
So with that choice in mind, just a choice of Mug is next. I prefer a large mug but my mug of choice are the Starbucks City mugs that I collect. They are About 18 - 20 fluid oz. I like it to be Porcelain, which is pretty standard, since Porcelain holds heat fairly well. I also like it to have an over sized handle. nothing is more annoying than those little finger hole handles that you sometimes get your finger stuck in or snagged when setting down your cup, then spilling you coffee . That just ruins the moment!

Now creamer. I hate to admit this but I like the original powdered creamer by "Coffee Mate". This is mainly because, as a kid this is what my Dad always used and it has just always been a staple for me plain and simple. Now, as for those foo foo flavored coffee creamers that seem so popular. I say, "Nooooooo!" I compare those to the milk left over from a bowl of over sugared cereal my children eat. I think that coffee was never meant to taste like a Cinnamon stick, Chocolate bar, or a candied Nut!

Sugar. This should always complement, never overpower, your coffee. NEVER EVER use Substitute sugars. You might as well just lick a cactus if you plan to use those, in my humble opinion. Shoot for your sugar of choice. Like Salt, Sugar is meant to be used as and enhancer, not a flavor for your coffee. My sugar of choice is Hawaiian Pure Cain.

So in conclusion here is my recipe that I use every morning:

Porcelain Coffee cup (18 - 20 Fluid oz.)
Brewed Coffee of choice
1 TB Sugar
3 TB Creamer
Stir and enjoy!