Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Fish Dilemma

I don't know about you, but I am concerned about the overfishing going on in the world. What am I supposed to do about it as an individual?  I want to eat more fish, but what fish are okay to eat?

Luckily, The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great resource called Seafood Watch.  It includes pocket guides and regional lists which can be downloaded. 

They advise you on what fish are best to choose, which to avoid, and which are a good substitute.

And there is a free app for the iPhone, too!! 

When I am grocery shopping or at a restaurant looking over a menu, I will now be able to check the list on my phone.

For example, I received two coupons for fish along with my receipt when I picked up my prescription at Wegman's this week --- I guess they are promoting healthy eating at the pharmacy? --- Anyway, one was for frozen Mahi Mahi and the other for fresh Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon. 

I was able to check the Seafood Watch list on my phone easily --- under Salmon, it says that farm raised is a no-no, but wild caught is okay.  The app doesn't give background as to why, but you can always go to the main site for more information.  In this case, farmed salmon negatively impacts this oceans due to pollution and parasites being released from current farming practices.  It seems like farmed should be better than wild-caught because the demand for salmon is enormous, but it is the opposite, until the farming practices are improved.

Just wanted to share this resource ---- B

Friday, February 26, 2010

White Chili by Tom

White Chili by Tom

A major winter storm hit our area yesterday and today dumping a foot of the white stuff and causing us to cancel a trip to New York City.  So with a new foot of snow on the ground, what a perfect time to make a cold weather dish like chili.  But rather than a traditional tomato-based chili, I decided a white (like snow - get it?) chili would taste good.  I adapted a recipe that my mother made to fit some of the ingredients we had in our freezer and cabinets.

The Ingredients

1 lb boneless pork country style ribs - cut into 1" pieces (chicken can be substituted)
2 - 15.5 ounce cans of white beans (I used butter beans and cannellini beans)
1 sweet medium onion - chopped
1 yellow pepper - chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
15 ounce can (~2 cups) low sodium chicken broth
bottle of good beer (less a couple of swigs to taste while cooking)
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

After the meat and vegetables are all cut up, heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot.  (I used the same pot for browning the meat, cooking the vegetables, and simmering the chili.)  Once the oil is hot, brown the meat.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat and put the chopped onions and peppers into the hot soup pot.  If the pot is dry, add a little more olive oil.  Saute the vegetables until they are softened, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the meat back into the pot.

Stir in the garlic, the green chiles and the dry spices (cumin, oregano, cloves, cayenne pepper) and saute for another 2 minutes.

Now add the chicken broth, the beer and the beans.  Stir the entire mixture well and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and turn the heat way down and simmer for at least an hour to insure the meat is tender.  Cooking this chili longer on very low heat is not a problem.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

We did not do this, but you can garnish with white grated Monterrey jack cheese and sour cream, if you would like.

This is an easy winter day recipe.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beef Short Ribs with Balsamic Glaze

This meal was a trial run for a new recipe ---and it is definitely a keeper.  The glaze is made with black currant juice and balsamic vinegar, and it makes this dish extra special.  Beef short ribs are less expensive than other cuts, but when cooked this way, they are heaven.  I remember first falling in love with short ribs at Union Square Cafe in NYC. 

Beef Short Ribs with Balsamic Glaze
adapted from Edible Finger Lakes calendar
Serves 6

1/4 pound bacon, diced
3 pounds beef short ribs, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups carrots, medium dice
2 cups celery, medium dice
12 cipollinni onions, peeled (or you could use pearl onions)
2 T. flour
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 t. dried sage (or 2 t. fresh chopped)
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, cook bacon until slightly crispy. 

Remove and set aside on paper towels.

Sear ribs in batches in the bacon fat. 


Add the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the flour and herbs and cook for 3 more minutes.

Deglaze the pot with the red wine.  Add the ribs. 

Add the stock, cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours, or until fork tender.

Meanwhile make the balsamic glaze (see below).

Lower the oven to 225 degrees, remove the pot, and transfer the ribs to a cookie sheet.  Brush them with the glaze, cover with parchment paper and place them back in the oven along with the veggies.

Balsamic Glaze

1 1/4 cups balsamic
1/2 cup black currant juice (look in the organic section)
 2 T. honey
pinch of salt

In a small pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients.  Reduce by one third.

While the beef ribs are in the oven at 225 degrees---

make your green beans and instant polenta.

Place your prepped green beans (washed, ends snapped off, and broken into bite sizes) in a pot with 1/2 inch of water and cover, bring to boil on high, and cook for 4 minutes.

Uncover the beans, keep the heat on high, and continue to cook until the water evaporates, another 4 to 6 minutes. If you run out of water before the beans are done, add a little more hot water.

When they are fully cooked and the water is gone, turn off the heat, season with salt and a little extra virgin olive oil and cover to keep them warm.

Concurrently, boil water for the instant polenta.  My box required 4.5 cups of salted water.
I used instant polenta that cooks in one minute.

Stir in the box of polenta, quickly and mix well. 
Place a well of soft, creamy polenta in each plate.

Immediately, pour the rest of the pot of hot polenta into a loaf pan, and let it cool.  Cover with plastic, directly on the surface, and place in the refrigerator for future use.   It can be sliced and grilled.   

Serve the ribs over polenta.  Carefully strain some of the cooked veggies from the pot.  Add the crunchy green beans.  Garnish with the chopped bacon, if you wish.

I thought the glaze was the best part of this dish.  Tom loved the way I cooked the green beans and asked me to make them again the next day, and to be sure to post the technique on the blog. Also, the instant polenta was a surprise.  I don't know if it is a no-no to make instant in an Italian kitchen or not, but it was so easy --only 1 minute! ---and tasty.  I will buy it again.   

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soup of the Week: Leek Potato

The leeks at the grocery store were calling my name, so I bought a potato and an onion, too.   That's all you really need for this lovely, soothing soup. 

Leek Potato Soup
2 large leeks
1 russet potato
1/2 medium Spanish onion
2 cans of chicken broth, low sodium
1 T butter and 1 t. olive oil
salt to taste

Use the white and light green parts of the leeks.  Cut off root.  Slice down the middle and crossways to make crescents.  Wash thoroughly, by placing them in a large bowl, fill with cold water, rinse thoroughly, let the grit fall to the bottom of the bowl of water, skim the leek crescents out and set aside.

Chop the onion.  In medium pot with a cover, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and  let it sweat, while you peel and dice the potato. 

Add the leeks and the potato to the onions and stir together.  Salt lightly. 

Cover with chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, partially cover. Simmer for 1/2 hour. 

Let it cool for a while, then puree.  Adjust seasoning, if needed.

Serve warm, garnished with diced bacon or something else crispy.

If you want a creamier soup, you could add 1/2 cup of cream or half-n-half, or 2% evaporated milk.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lemon Mustard Chicken by McJane

                                                                    Photo by Barbara

Note:  To distinguish between my sister, Jane, and our friend, Jane, I have dubbed her McJane.

We made her Lemon Mustard Chicken tonight for dinner. It was bright, and lemony.  And easy.  Thanks for contributing, McJane! 

Hey Barbara!

Just looked at your blog- haven't done that for a while. I enjoyed it. Do you ever put out challenges for recipes? We cook a lot and I am always on the hunt for a recipe that is easy enough for one of my daughters to handle with only a little supervision.

The food channel was on as I was cruising the Internet and I caught one of those 10 second blurbs - kind of. So I jotted down what I thought was said, and then just made it my own since I am sure I missed some of it. Thought you might be doing something around easy dishes, or cook with the kids dishes at some point. Even Kevin, who is a huge critic, loved it. The next night my other daughter and I did a great stew made with brisket marinated in a bottle of chianti - that was scrumptious too! But anyway, here is the info on the chicken if you want it.

Here is what we did (my daughter and I) and it turned out to have fabulous flavor:

Lemon Mustard Chicken

5 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Marinade: (make 2 of these and put in separate containers)
  • Lemon juice (I didn't measure but probably half a cup)
  •  2 T Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil (I didn't measure but about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 T minced garlic
Marinade boneless, skinless chicken breasts in mixture in refrigerator for at least an hour in a glass baking dish using one of the containers of marinade (we left it in for more like 2 hours).

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for at least one hour

Pull from oven and pour second marinade over chicken (can warm marinade slightly in microwave first) and cover with foil. Let this rest 10 minutes on counter. Serve over rice with a vegetable side dish.

I would love to have a recipe for a fudgy brownie - that doesn't fall apart - not a cake - and I want to use splenda in it. I have not found a recipe that we like as well as those stupid boxed ones. Can you help? I've tried so many recipes, but they never have the chewy texture or flavor and don't pass the family's test.

Did you see Julie and Julia? Made me want to read a Julia Child biography.

           -------Jane Mc

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jo's Pumpkin Bread

A knock on the door --- and I was pleased to see Jo stopping by to drop off this pumpkin bread recipe along with a sample for us to try.  She made mini-loaves last week for her office mates for Valentine's Day,  and was telling me how good this recipe is!  So, I encouraged her to contribute it to the blog.  (Anyone who contributes to the blog this year gets a book next year, did I mention that?!?)

It's one of those hand-me-down family recipes --- short on directions, but the combination of ingredients is just right.

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. allspice
1/2 t. cloves
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin (1 - 16 ounce can)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 t. soda

Mix all ingredients.  Bake in 2 loaf pans/greased.  350 degrees --1 hour.  Nuts and raisins may be added.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chicken with Andouille Sausage and Peppers by Tom

It was my turn to cook again last Monday as Barbara was off painting for the afternoon with her friend Lin.  Since it was a cold wintery day, I was in the mood for a hearty dish.  I found a recipe in my favorite cookbook "Dinosaur Bar B Que: An American Roadhouse" that I had made way back in 2003, so I thought this might be something worth trying again.  I never make anything the same way twice, so I am sure this came out differently this time.  But final assessment:  very good!  Not too spicy and surprisingly sweet

The Ingredients

The key to this dish is the rub that goes on the chicken.  I will detail that a little later.  But here is what you need for the dish itself.

1 - 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
The rub (lots of spices detailed below)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper julienned
Some salt and pepper to taste
2 heaping teaspoons chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sweet barbeque sauce (I used Dinosaur BBQ Slathering Sauce)
1/4 cup spicy barbeque sauce (I used Dinosaur Barbeque Wango Tango Sauce)  optional
2 bay leaves
3 pickled pepperocini, cut into rounds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 pound andouille sausage (I used a package of six)
2 tablespoons butter

The Rub - this is what gives this dish incredible flavor as the rub is an integral part of the recipe.
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar

Throw all of the Rub ingredients into a bowl and mix it up so that it is well blended.  Use a big enough bowl to hold all of the chicken. 

Cut up the chicken thighs into bite-size pieces, and throw them into the bowl containing the Rub. 

Thoroughly coat the chicken pieces and let them sit in the bowl while you prepare the vegetables.

Slice the andouille sausage into bite size pieces and set aside.

Add about half of the olive oil to a large frying pan (I used a wok which worked great!) and heat over medium high heat. Get it hot but not smoking.

Into the hot oil add the coated chicken thighs, and cook until slightly browned.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Make sure that you have all of the rub from the bowl into the frying pan as well when you are dumping out the chicken into the pan. 

After the chicken has browned, return it to the bowl that contained the rub and let it rest.  Now it is time to add the julienned bell peppers and chopped red onion into the pan.  If the pan is too dry, add a little more olive oil.  Cook all of the vegetables until they are soft.  This will take 4-7 minutes depending on how thinly you sliced the vegetables.  I made mine a little thicker to get their texture and taste. 

While the vegetables are cooking, go ahead and slice the pickled pepperocini into rings.  I scraped out most of the seeds.

Once the vegetables are almost done, add the garlic and cook for just a minute more. You don't wat the garlic to burn so keep stirring.

Now is the time to get your cooking mixture going.  Add the chicken broth to the softened vegetables and the barbeque sauces.  Toss in the bay leaves, pepperocini, thyme and red wine vinegar.  Stir the mixture up and then add the browned chicken pieces.  Make sure to scrape the bowl well to get any chicken juices and Rub into the pan.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the chicken mixture is simmering, saute the andouille sausage that you previously sliced.  Again throw some olive oil in the frying pan and get it hot.  Toss in the andouille sausage being careful to not get splattered by hot oil.  Brown, but don't burn the sausage pieces.  This will also rend some of the fat out of the sausage.

Once browned (I burned a few of them as you can see!), place them on a paper towel to absorb the excess grease.
After the 20 minute simmering time is up with the chicken mixture, add the browned andouille sausage.  Simmer for another 15 minutes or so.  Near the end of this time add the butter and let it melt into the mixture stirring slowly to incorporate the butter.  Test the mixture for taste, and add salt and pepper to your individual taste.

I served this dish over long grain wild rice.  Follow the instructions on the rice you choose for preparing.
Barbara and I thoroughly enjoyed my concoction for dinner, and ate it again for lunch the next day.  Just as good as a left-over as it was the night before.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rapini with Garlic & The Pelican

Loved the rapini we had at our art deco hotel on South Beach, the Pelican, which has a very good Italian restaurant.  The Pelican Cafe is right on Ocean Drive, so our table was outside, a real treat for us.  We were perched above the sidewalk, across the street from the beach and Atlantic ocean.

Their food was fantastic.  I am not exaggerating.  Once we found out how good it was, we just ate there. No decisions ---and that made our vacation more relaxing.  When we go back to South Beach, we will eat there again.

This is South Beach.
It is interesting mix of tourists ---lots of Europeans --- as well as locals seeking the neon night life ---we were next door to Gloria Estafan's restaurant and disco --- SoBe is not a quiet place. 

South Beach is filled with restored Art Deco buildings ---

and good restaurants, from little places that locals go to, to expensive hoity-toity ones with fancy cars being valet parked. 

It has cruise ships coming and going from the Port of Miami. Over 3.5 million passengers a year.

We even saw a photo shoot going on, like on America's Top Model, which made me laugh.

Great people watching.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the rapini we ordered as a side dish the last night we were there.  It was so simple, but so good!  So, I tried to make it at home last night.  Had some success, but it just didn't compare to The Pelican's.  Nonetheless, I am glad that I now have a new veggie dish to add to my repertoire.

It is easy to do, especially because I bought the pre-chopped, pre-packaged rappi at Wegman's, and adapted their recipe on the bag.

As background, rapini or broccoli raab, often called rappi around here, is a popular vegetable in Mediterranean dishes.  I looks like skinny broccoli, but with more leaves, and underdeveloped buds.  It is slightly bitter, and stands up better to cooking than broccoli which can turn to mush.  It is very good for you. 

The Wegman's way of cooking it requires blanching it before sauteeing, which I found to be a pain in the neck, i.e., waiting for the water to boil, having to drain it, etc. When I blanch and drain, I think of all the good vitamins lost going down the drain in the cooking water.   Next time, I am going to do some research in my Italian or Alice Water's cookbooks for an alternative way --- or perhaps I could microwave it before sauteeing? 

Rapini with Garlic

1 bunch (about 1 pound) rapini, stem ends trimmed and discarded, rough chopped
olive oil for cooking
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Grated cheese to sprinkle on top (Parmesan, Percorino Romano, or Grana Padano)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. 

Blanch rappi for 2-3 minutes.

In a saute pan (I just used the same pot I used for blanching), heat olive oil on medium (don't use high heat for this dish or you will burn your garlic).  Add garlic and cook briefly (10 seconds).

Add drained rappi, add a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring until all the liquid is gone and the rappi is heated through and starting to become fragrant and dry and slightly browned -- you will smell it as it gets done ---don't let your garlic burn --- add more olive oil if necessary. 

This took me about 4 minutes to finish the rappi because mine was very wet.
Sprinkle it with cheese.

I served it as the base for Proscuitto-wrapped Halibut which I have previously posted.

view from our penthouse, lucky upgrade 
At the Pelican, we were upgraded to the penthouse after a sleepless night, due to a jet-lagged guest clomping around upstairs in what Tom called "hobnail boots," pacing back and forth all night long.  Our first room was already very fancy, but now we had the use of the party deck on top of the hotel.  Very cool. 

Loved the kooky retro details throughout.

The Pelican is a small boutique hotel, owned by the Diesel clothing company,