Friday, August 15, 2014

Going Green

With Salsa Verde, that is! oh how I adore this stuff and thanks to my beloved public TV cooking show line up I now have a recipe that I simply adore! It all started with an episode of Pati's Mexican Table. There she was making her rendition of the sauce I loved but had yet to master. Fast Forward to this weeks CSA share - tomatillos, jalapenos, while onions - practically all the ingredients I needed. I had a bunch of cilantro in the freezer from the spring so I knew it was time to give this sauce a try albeit with a few tweaks cuz that's just how I am, lol. I am so happy I did. It was perfect! No more canned stuff for me. I will be canning my own from now on. My CSA farmer said we would have tomatillos and hot peppers for several more weeks so I will be making this several more times I am sure! I recommend that you make some too. This stuff is great with tamales or enchiladas or just as a dip for plain ol' corn chips! Thank you Pati!

about 10 green tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 jalapeno chiles, or more to taste
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
2 packets chicken bouillon powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive - it's what I had but any cooking oil would do)

Place the tomatillos along with the garlic cloves and the jalapenos in a pot and just cover with water. Place over high heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer at medium for about 10 minutes, or until tomatillos change their color from a bright to a pale green, are cooked through and are soft but are not coming apart.You may need to turn them because they float. I actually forgot to put the jalapenos in and just threw them in the blender in the next step. The end product was still delicious.

Place tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos (you may add one chile first) and the cooking liquid in the blender and puree until smooth (if you used a LOT of water only add 1/2 Cup for now - you can add more later if you need it). Add the cilantro, onion and 1 packet of bouillon to the blender and process again. Taste for salt and add more bouillon (and/or cooking liquid) if need be. Also taste for heat, you may add more jalapenos until you reach your desired heat level. 

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, pour in the sauce and bring it to a boil (watch for splatters). Simmer over medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes, until it thickens a bit and deepens its flavor and color. Turn off the heat. 

Once it cools down, you may store it in a closed container in the refrigerator for weeks. However, the heat level of the sauce will diminish as the days go by.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tomato Season

I am happy to say that my stubborn tomatoes have FINALLY started to ripen. However, my plants are not looking all that great these days. Wouldn't it be just my luck that the moment they finally decided to ripen they get some sort of disease and croak entirely. Hmph! I will be keeping an eye on them and hopefully that doesn't happen. Good thing I have lots of windowsill space for them to finish off in case the unthinkable happens! While I don't have quite enough to start canning like a maniac, I did have enough for some lovely tarts. I made a French version with asiago cheese that I fell in love with last summer as well as this Italian version I saw on Proud Italian cook. I did deviate from recipe a bit in that I used a regular pastry crust instead of brown rice and garlic powder instead of grating the fresh stuff - I was in a rush and didn't feel like peeling garlic. The end result was still quite yummy and husband an I enjoyed it with some chicken parmesan for dinner. These tarts come together so quickly and are so delicious with fresh summer tomatoes it is really hard to refrain from eating them all in one or two sittings! They would make excellent additions to any meal any time of day.

Italian Tomato Tart (adapted from Proud Italian Cook)

  • 9 inch deep fluted tart pan with removable bottom or a deep dish pie pan
  • 1  disc pre-made pie crust dough
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup of grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • basil and parsley, fresh chopped, 2 tablespoons each
  • vine ripened tomatoes, any kind, sliced
  1. Turn up oven temp to 350 degrees.F. 
  2. Line tart pan with pie crust dough
  3. Mix ricotta, cheeses, herbs, egg and garlic for the filling then spread evenly onto the crust.
  4. Place your tomatoes all over,slightly sinking them into the ricotta mixture.
  5. Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes and tart then bake for 30 minutes or until ricotta is set.
  6. To finish it, I like to place mine under the broiler to get it a nice golden color on top, but if you do that, keep checking and don't walk away from the stove!
  7. Let it cool a little before slicing.
  8. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peachy Keen

So for some mysterious reason I have been craving peaches lately. Can't tell you why since I have never EVER been a fan of them. Something about that fuzzy skin was always so off-putting for me. This weekend I decided to satisfy my craving now that peach season is in full swing. I found a recipe claiming to be the best peach cobbler I'd ever have- a claim, in hindsight with which I do not agree. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but I found it to be much too sweet for my tastes. The recipe was easy and I had everything I needed on hand but I doubt I would make it again. the recipe says you can use other fruits so maybe something more tart would offset the sweetness of the dessert.  I actually enjoyed eating the peeled and cubed pieces of fruit better than the cobbler itself. But, if you would like to try it here is the recipe.

 Best Cobbler You’ve Ever Had

1 box yellow cake mix (not baked, just the powder)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2  eggs
30 ounces canned peaches, drained (or 4 fresh peaches, peeled and pitted)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, and 1 egg. Mix ingredients until crumbly. Separate ½ cup of crumble for topping.
  2. Spray a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray. Press remaining crumble into base of dish.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. While crust bakes, slice peaches into small, 1 inch pieces.
  4. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg, and vanilla until creamy. Layer peaches on top of baked crust. Spread cream cheese mixture on top of peaches.
  5. Top with reserved crumbs and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 additional minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Mermaid Parade

Yep, it's that time again and what a parade it was! The day started with my traditional hot dog from the original Nathan's. I swear hot dogs here just taste better! Skip the mall versions and head to Brooklyn for the original experience. You won't regret it!

I always get mine with their pepper and onion sauce - so delicious. You have to get them right when they open or you wont get within 30 feet of the place. See what i mean:

Anyway, this years costume was a traditional mermaid in blue. It was a mad dash to finish it when my sewing machine decided to shit the bed but with the help of my Mom (Thanks Mom) we managed to pull it together. I think it came out pretty darn good! I am already starting to mull over idea for next year!
After 8 or so years of attending this parade, I finally have it down to a science! There is no WAY you will get near any of the food stands once this thing gets going so you have to pack food if you plan to eat anytime after noon. Since my fellow marcher was a vegetarian, I brought some hummus and whole grain tortilla chips for us to snack on. I also packed some cheese, dried sausages and crackers (for the rest of us) and plenty of water. Sodas were also on hand but were more to keep us awake for the ride home. I also had buffalo chicken salad sandwiches to satisfy the bigger appetites. We used 2 coolers - 1 smaller one for our food that stayed at the car and need to be kept cold and one with wheels to bring with us as we marched that had plenty of water and our bribes for the judges (Wine, Rum, coke, cups and ice). Marching generated quite an appetite and having those snacks waiting for us at the end made us very happy!

Erika's Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained
1 large roasted red pepper (I used jarred)
1-2 cloves garlic (or garlic scapes if you have them, roasted garlic works too)
1 Tbs tahini paste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
Olive oil

Dump everything but the oil into a food processor. Turn on processor and slowly pour oil through the feed tube until desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all and I hope you all got to spend it with family. We had a lovely cookout and put that grill to good use. I still can't believe how good everything that we cook on it turns out! This time it was the zucchini that really was the favorite (aside from hubbys awesome burgers). It is the simplest recipe ever and is just delicious! Enjoy!

Erika's Grilled Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut into thick sticks
3-4 Tbs Olive oil
1-2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1-2 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 tbs seasoned salt

Throw all of the ingredients into a zip lock bag and massage so that all of the zucchini is evenly coated. let sit for at leash one hour, Grill on medium heat until cooked. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Product Review - Saber Cast 500 Grill

So, I decided to surprise the hubs this year with a new grill for Father's Day. I had to do it early though because he was already talking about getting a new one and I didn't want him to beat me to it. A few years back I bought him what I thought was a fairly decent grill for Father's Day. Turns out it was a piece of shit! The entire interior of the thing rotted to pieces in about 4 seasons. Now, mind you, we keep the grill under a carport so it was never exposed to rain or snow and we don't go catering pig roasts either. Just normal summer use and it fell apart THAT fast. We looked into replacement parts, but to use anything of quality added up to more than what I paid for the damn thing new (F-U Home Depot!)! So, I decided to embark upon a quest to find a grill worth investing in. I decided on the SABER Cast 500. I spent more than the average person probably would but I wanted something that would last. I have to tell you I LOVE THIS GRILL!! Now Saber is actually made by Char-Broil but is a higher end product line. I have had good grill performance with Char-Broil in the past so I had faith in the brand. They did not let me down.  You can tell immediately that this grill is different when you lift the lid - it is HEAVY! The grill itself has a 10 year warranty and their customer service is top notch (I had some issues with the temperature gauges - I think they needed to break in a bit because they seem to be working fine now but SABER sent me a new set with no questions asked). But the burning question is, "How does it cook?". FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!! Even heat within each cooking zone and no flare ups - NONE! I haven't yet put it through all the paces but we have done burgers, hot dogs, steaks and veggies and they all came out great. You can cook actually cook with 2 different temperatures AT THE SAME TIME. I have no plans on even using my stove or oven for the rest of the summer.

Oh, and since nobody actually reads this blog, nobody paid me for this review. It's all me, folks.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Food for the Masses

This past weekend was one of my husbands motorcycle events - a progressive dinner ride. Basically, they ride to various clubhouses and have snacks and appetizers at each spot until they get to the last stop where a steak dinner is served. This is the second time they have held this event so I already have my contribution down - chicken salad sandwiches. When I made these the first time it was because I wanted something fairly cheap that didn't require a ton of work to make in large amounts. Turns out they were a HUGE hit - didn't expect that at all! My SIL makes steak and cheese egg rolls - the thought of all the prep makes my head ache! For this latest event I made about 10 pounds of chicken salad (Thank the heavens for truckload meat sales, food processors and stand mixers) and about 75 sandwiches. There was about a quart of chicken salad left over that my husband has been happily eating for lunch all week. Here's how it came together:

Chicken Salad for a Crowd

10 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 30 oz container of Mayonnaise
1 large sweet onion
2/3 bunch of celery
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Tbs salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbs black pepper (or to taste)

Place chicken in a VERY large pot and cover with water. Boil chicken breasts on high heat until cooked through. Turn off heat and let cool in water overnight. When cool, remove any remaining fate, cartilage or otherwise icky stuff from the breasts (if should come off easily now), cut breasts into thirds and shred in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment - work in batches. Place shredded chicken in a very large mixing bowl. (Save poaching liquid - it is now chicken stock)

In a food processor finely chop onion and celery. Add to shredded chicken along with remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate. If mixture seems stiff or dry add about a half cup of reserved chicken stock to loosen or more mayo - or both! Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit overnight to meld flavors.

As a rule I always serve these on Kings Hawaiian rolls. They just make it all taste better. I use the mini sub rolls because they are already split. I just cut them in half for perfectly sized appetizer sandwiches and top with a little lettuce for crunch. That's all there is to it!