Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Broccoli on the Grill

Broccoli  --- Hot off the Grill

We've had success putting our broccoli on the grill while we cook our meat, so I thought I'd share how it is done. It is a twist on the technique used for Hayden's Sprouts.

The moisture from the recently rinsed broccoli steams the broccoli and the direct heat from the grill browns the bottom.  Using garlic powder eliminates the risk of bitter or burnt garlic, but adds flavor.

Broccoli on the Grill

1 head of fresh broccoli, rinsed
aluminum foil
olive oil
garlic powder
salt and pepper

For an average sized head of broccoli, you will need two equally sized sheets of aluminum foil, approximately 16-18 inches long.

Place one sheet on the counter, drizzle some olive on it.

Then, be sure your broccoli is recently rinsed, and not dry, you will need a little moisture for success.

Cut the broccoli into pieces, including the stems, so they are all about the same size for even cooking.

Place the flat side down into the olive oil and rub it around to coat the flat side with the oil, and pack them closely together in one layer.  Leave about an inch or two all around the outside.  In other words, keep them in the center of the foil.
One layer is important for even cooking and getting a browned bottom.

Drizzle more olive oil over the top.  Add a generous amount of garlic powder (not garlic salt) and then season with salt and pepper.  Be sure to get the spices on all of the pieces of broccoli.
Now, place the second piece of aluminum foil on top.  Start in one corner, and fold the bottom edge over the bottom, as if you were sealing a pie, or a parchment packet for fish, until you are all the way around the foil, and have a tightly closed packet of broccoli.  If you need to, squish the broccoli together to ensure that there are not any gaps.  If you tear the foil, just crimp it together.  You don't want any places for the steam to escape.
Place the packet on a tray or small cookie sheet for transportation to and from the grill.
Coordinate the timing of the broccoli with whatever else you are grilling.
Grill for about 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat.  12 minutes is too long.  You don't have to turn it.
Be careful when you open the packet.  It will be steamy and very hot.

The broccoli will be bright green but browned on the bottom if you have your timing right.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Peach Melba is a French chef's dessert for an Australian

Dame Nellie Melba, Australian opera singer, in costume

Famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, created "Peach Melba" for Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba, who dined at his restaurants in London in the late 1890's and early 1900's.

"Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931) was probably the most famous soprano in the world in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born Helen Porter Mitchell, she took the stage name of Melba as a contraction of her native city of Melbourne. She was based in Europe for long periods but toured Australia extensively. Melba worked tirelessly to raise funds for charities in Australia during World War I. In 1920, she became the first artist of international reputation to participate in direct radio broadcasts."  Source:  Museum of Australian Currency
PBS food writer, Tori Avey tells the whole story at The History Kitchen. Or click here to go to the site:
I compared The History Kitchen recipe (which she says is translated from Escoffier's words) to many different versions in my French cookbooks and online, and came back to the original to try.
I can see why this is such a popular dessert! Creamy and cool, rich but not cloying.
The key to a great Peach Melba is perfectly ripe peaches.  So either let them ripen on the windowsill or speed up the process by putting them in a paper bag, loosely closed, at room temperature for a couple of days.

Peach Melba
(adapted from Escoffier's Peach Melba on The History Kitchen on PBS)

Serves 6-8

4 ripe, tender peaches
superfine sugar
1-2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 pint vanilla ice cream like Ben & Jerry's
12 ounces fresh ripe raspberries
1 heaping cup of powdered sugar
4 T. slivered almonds, toasted

Note:  Make the raspberry sauce and peel/sugar the peaches, at least an hour before your serve the dessert, i.e., be sure to do it ahead of time.

For the raspberry sauce, use a mini-food processor or blender, to puree the fresh raspberries.
Strain the pureed fruit through a sieve to remove the seeds.
It takes a long time -- about 5 minutes of continuously pushing the fruit through the sieve, and scraping the juice from the bottom, but you will be left with just the seeds.  Which should be discarded/composted.
Put the strained fruit back in the food processor and add the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and process until smooth.  You will be adding a cup of powdered sugar in total.
Chill it, covered, in the refrigerator, until time to serve.
For the sugared peaches, carefully peel the peaches*, remove the pit, and slice in half.  Squeeze lemon over them, then sprinkle sugar on both sides, cover and put them in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.

*There are many suggestions as to the best and easiest way to peel peaches, with most references recommending blanching then shocking them in cold water, to make the peel easy to remove.  I have always found that if I am patient and careful, I can just peel them with a good paring knife.

For the almond topping, spread the almonds in one layer and either toast them in a toast oven or regular oven, just until they begin to color.  Watch them carefully, and don't let them burn.  I noticed that Escoffier called for raw blanched almonds, but toasting them always brings out more flavor.

For the ice cream, you can make your own from scratch like Escoffier did, but with so many good options available in the supermarket, we chose Ben&Jerry's Vanilla.

To assemble the dessert:

Choose a nice vertical glass dish so you can see the layers.

Place one big scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom.

Add the raspberry sauce.

Place a peach half to the side, so you can still see the raspberry sauce and ice cream, sort of like a hat.

Then, sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.
Serve promptly.

I can't believe it took me this long to discover Peach Melba.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Weetabix - An Australian Original by Tom

Weetabix is Australian 

Last year we got hooked on a very funny Irish television series entitled "Moone Boy".  Chris O'Dowd is the imaginary friend of Martin Moone, and, as it turns out, it is a bit of retrospective of O'Dowd's childhood experiences.  One of the episodes involves getting a new bicycle from collecting many boxtops from a cereal named "Reddibix".  Martin's sisters cringe at the thought of having to eat so much of this stuff.  We wondered why.  So we went on the hunt for the cereal.  No such cereal exists in real life, but Weetabix does!
Weetabix is the British version of the original Australian cereal Weet-Bix.  Clever rebranding.  We can thank Australian Bennison Osborne for inventing this high fiber cereal.  He developed it in the mid-1920s, but through a series of circumstances it ended up being manufactured in England in the 1932. 
English food until the last thirty years or so has not been known for its culinary excellence.  Weetabix fits right into that stereotype, and perhaps even helped to promote it.

It comes in the package nicely bundled as a biscuit.  It looks like a hybrid of plywood and sawdust.  But then the magic happens.  As soon as milk touches it, it turns into a soggy mess.  It is rather hard to describe the taste of Weetabix once in this state.  Obviously because the main ingredient is wheat, it does have this taste.  Although I have never eaten Cream-of-Wheat cold, I imagine this would be a fairly accurate description of its taste.
So there you have it.  An Australian invention that found its way to England and eventually into our kitchen pantry.  It may be there for a while.

Friday, July 3, 2015

How to eat Vegemite and Hugh Jackman

Vegemite is made from brewer's yeast, a by-product of brewing beer.
It was invented in 1922 in Australia and 22 million jars per year are sold by most estimates.

What's more Australian than Vegemite!

Thanks to our niece, Emily ---she sent me the link---Hugh Jackman shows us (and Jimmy Fallon) how to eat Vegemite.

Or go to the link here:

I bought a jar and white bread and we tried it, too, following Hugh's directions.
First I toasted inexpensive white bread.  Then added butter.  
Then, only a little bit of vegemite, thinly spread across the surface of the toast.  

So what does it taste like?  To me, it tastes a lot like miso paste.  It is salty and bitter.  Or kind of like a spread of briny black olives. But malt-ier.  Kind of like Worcestshire sauce.
It's has lots of nutritional value.  B-vitamins and probiotics.

Later in the day, I also tried it on a toasted cheese sandwich using it instead of mustard.  But I definitely used too much, and it was overpowering and too salty.

A little goes a long way...

Here's the link to the Vegemite site if you are interested in learning more about it's history and how to use it.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July: Australia

July: Australia

July is Australia month for our food travels.  The calendar has vegemite toast, lamingtons, beer, BBQ snag, balmain bug, meat pie, fish and chips, flat white and peach melba.

Vegemite (some sort of brown paste which is spread on toast) will be the first thing I will look for at the grocery store.  I have always heard it tastes awful but I have always wanted to try it.

Lamingtons sound delicious:  a sponge cake with chocolate and coconut with a layer of cream in between.

Flat white refers to a layer of velvety foam on top of coffee, similar to a cappuccino or latte.

Snag is a colloquialism for sausage on the BBQ or barbie.  And a balmain bug is butterfly fan lobster, a species of slipper lobster.

Meat pie is a popular take-away food.  It's a small pie in a tin, made with minced meat and gravy and the data says Australians consume on average 12 per year.

Peach melba is a dessert of peaches and ice cream with a raspberry sauce, and it was invented for Australian soprano, Nellie Melba.

Will be fun to try a few of these iconic items.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry Jam

Really tasty!  And not too difficult to make.  Next time, I will figure out how to get them to keep their round shape ---as mine flattened out.  
I found lingonberry jam made in Sweden in our international aisle.  It tastes a little like cranberry sauce.  

Swedish Meatballs
(adapted from Simply Swedish)

Serves 4

2 potatoes (floury variety) -- I used two baking potatoes
400 g mixed pork/beef mince - I used 1 lb. pork/beef ground beef mix
50 ml milk (about a 1/4 cup)
1/4 yellow onion
1/2 - 1 t. salt
3 pinches ground white pepper (I used black)
1 egg
2 T. butter

2 T. flour (I used gravy flour)
400 ml water  and 1 T. beef bouillon, concentrated (I used 1.5 cups chicken stock)
100 ml cream (I used 1/2 cup half and half)
1/2 t. dark soy sauce (I used Worcestershire sauce)
salt and pepper

Serve with:  lingonberry jam, boiled potatoes, boiled carrots

Peel the potatoes and boil them until completely soft.  Pour away the water and let the potatoes steam off and cool.  (I microwaved my potatoes in their jackets until soft -- about 8-9 minutes.  Then let them cool. Then peeled them. And pressed them through a food mill.)
Put the minced meat in a bowl, press the potatoes and mix in with the milk.  Peel and finely grate the onion and use this to season the meat mixture along with salt and pepper.  Crack in the egg and work to a smooth mixture.
Make meatballs equal in size so they cook through at the same time, then fry them in a pan with butter until golden brown. Put the meatballs in a dish and keep warm or lay directly on the table with the rest of the smorgasbord.
Sprinkle the flour in the frying pan while stirring to prevent it from clumping together.  Whisk in the bouillon and cream, allowing it all to simmer for 3-5 minutes so the flour has time to swell before adding the soy sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the meatballs either as part of a smorgasbord or as a complete meal with sauce, potatoes and lingonberry jam.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Swedish Apple "Cake"

Swedish Apple "Cake"

Don't understand why this dessert is called a cake but it doesn't matter because it is delicious!

I'd call it more of a crumble or a crisp than a cake.

What made it special was the use of spelt flour and breadcrumbs instead of oats and all-purpose flour for the topping. And cardamon instead of cinnamon for the spice. And almonds for the nuts.

I used Margareta Schildt Landgren's cookbook, Simply Swedish, for the recipe and then adapted it, doing the best I could with the conversions.

Swedish Apple "Cake"
(adapted from Simply Swedish)

Serves 4 

4 firm crisp apples
4 T. butter plus extra for greasing the pan
grated rind from 1 lemon
3 T. superfine sugar
1/2 c. spelt flour (look in the organic aisle)
1/2 c. unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 to 1/3 cup of almonds (either slivered or flaked)
pinch of salt
1/4 t. of cardamon, or more if you like

whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch ceramic baking dish or pie plate or cake pan.  Rinse then peel, core and slice the apples.  Arrange them in the greased baking dish, and pile them up in the middle, if needed.

Grate the lemon rind and sprinkle over the apples.  Sprinkle the sugar next. Sprinkle the cardamon evenly over the top.

Mix the spelt and the breadcrumbs together, add a pinch of salt, mix again, then sprinkle evenly over the apples.  Shave, or cut the butter into small pieces and dot the dish.  Sprinkle the almonds over the top.
Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or as long as 1 1/4 hours until the "cake" is bubbly and well browned on top.   It should be golden brown.

Let it cool slightly.  Then cut a nice wedge and scoop it out into a shallow bowl.  Add whipped cream.  And serve with a spoon.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June is .... Sweden

June is ...Sweden

Lycklig matlagning---

Off to a late start, but still hope to make some Swedish food during the month of June.

The calendar shows meatballs, lingonberry jam, semla (a sweet roll), lingon dricka (a cocktail), pickled herring, and janssons frestelse, a Swedish casserole.

On the table is a dala horse.


Monday, June 8, 2015

June Peonies

First Peonies of June

Can't believe it is June already.  One of my favorite things to do is pick peonies from our backyard. These are the first ones to bloom and then the more traditional paper-tissue pink and whites ones will follow.  Love having bouquets of them around the house and on the kitchen table.  

We had a very hectic month of May, including Tom injuring his right hand --- and he is right-handed.  So, he is out of commission and won't be cooking in the kitchen for a month or more.  But he can supervise.  

He instructed our niece, Chelsea, how to make his go-to recipe, Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Broccolini  (click here to see recipe) soon after his accident.  She had been asking us for inexpensive, easy-to-make recipes since she would be cooking on her own when she moves to NYC.

Now she is gone and we are on our own again.  

I am kind of looking forward to a summer of being forced to not do too much, e.g., reading books, painting, and catching up on projects, while he recuperates.   

Tomorrow I will post what country the month of June is....


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak by Tom

Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak by Tom

This is a very easy rub for any kind of steak, and, I think, would work well on pork as well.  But for this recipe I used it on flank steak.

Chipotle powder is made of ground smoked red jalapenos.  The flavor is rich, smoky and hot, but not crazy hot.  It gives a deep smoky flavor to stews and salsas.  And it is good on marinated vegetables and grilled meats.

This was exactly how it worked on the flank steak.  A smoky and rich flavor that complimented the Salsa Verde sauce we served with it.


Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak
(adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Liebovitz)

Serves 6

1 1/2 # Flank steak
1 tablespoon Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon ground Chipotle powder

About 1 hour before grilling the meat:

Dry off the flank steak with paper towels.  Then sprinkle the flank steak generously with salt and pepper and the chipotle powder.

Rub it into the meat and let it sit at room temperature, on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.

How to grill it:  I have written this up before, but for clarity get your grill good and hot.  Make sure your grates are clean.

For rare, which I think is best for flank steak: grill on each side for 4 minutes a side.  Total cooking time - 8 minutes.

For medium rare: add a minute per side.  Total cooking time 10 minutes.

Don't overcook flank steak.  It gets to be tough and loses flavor if overcooked.

Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before carving to keep the juices (and, as a result, the flavor) from "leaking out" of the meat.  And remember that the meat continues to cook a bit while resting.  That is why you don't want to over-grill flank steak.  Think of it as like al dente pasta.  Best to stop the cooking before it gets to be too done!
Cut crosswise against the grain.  We like it rare.  If someone in your group doesn't, you can always microwave an individual portion for 10 seconds at a time until it gets to the desired doneness.  Or throw a piece or two back on the grill.

As I said at the beginning, a very easy way to prepare flank steak but with excellent taste results.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Avocado Boats (Aguacates Rellenos de Verdura)

Avocado Boats
filled with avocado, tomato, peas and panela

For Sunday dinner, our niece, Chelsea, and I tried out 4 recipes from the new Mexico cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte while Tom made a grilled flank steak, using a recipe from David Liebovitz.

This one was voted the best recipe and one that we would most likely make again.  The filling is excellent.

The boats aren't really necessary but they are very pretty and would be nice for a dinner party. Chelsea gets the credit for creating the boats and filling them so nicely.

The recipe calls for panela, which I found in the cheese section, but mild feta can be substituted.

Avocado Boats
Aguacates Rellenos de Verdura
(from the Mexico cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte)

Serves 4

4 ripe avocados
juice of 1 lemon (I used lime)
3.5 ounces panela or mild feta, diced
1/3 cup green peas, barely cooked (I used frozen petite peas)
1 tomato, peeled seeded and chopped (I used 8 small cherry tomatoes, chopped)
salt and pepper

optional:  cilantro as garnish

Note from B:  When you pick out your avocados, be sure to select ones that aren't overly ripe so they will stand up as a boat when you carve them out.

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit.  Scoop out most of the flesh from the avocado halves, leaving a 1/2 inch layer of the shell.  Carefully peel off the skins from the avocados, and sprinkle with the lemon (or lime as we did) juice and salt.

Combine the avocado flesh, cheese, peas, tomato in a bowl (and squeeze lime juice on it) and season with salt.  Fill the avocados with the mixture.

Place on platter and serve immediately.
We garnished ours with cilantro.  And served the extra filling at the table to add to our flank steak tacos.