Sunday, July 20, 2014

Museum Meals -- A Traveler's Tip

Tate Modern Scallop Starter

Some of our best meals were in museums during our recent trip to Paris and London. I read about it in one of the travel books --- and now I am passing on the tip.

If you have the time, skip the snack-type restaurants in the museums and take advantage of the full service restaurants.

We are glad we did.  It gave us the break from touring we needed and the food was delicious.
At the top of the Tate Modern in London, there are great views, excellent food and knowledgeable and friendly staff.
My chicken dish at the Tate Modern

We went after the lunch hour rush, around 2 -2:30 and that seemed to be a good time to get good seats and plenty of attention.

In the Musee D'Orsay, an old train station in Paris, the setting was lovely, on the first floor.  They served 2 and 3 course hot meals.
A starter, a main dish, and a dessert, like chocolate creme brulee.

And a coffee before heading out for more sightseeing.

You can take advantage of the restaurants and by-pass the museums, which is good to know, too.

The meals can be pricey but usually the menu is posted outside the restaurant and online for previewing.

In the past, I have frequented the cafes of museums for a place to rest and regroup, but now I will look for their full service restaurants, too.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tom's Special Hamburgers

Tom's Special Hamburger Ingredients

Summer time is great time for grilling hamburgers (or hamburgs as my mother calls them!).  For the July 4th holiday, we decided that hamburgers would be a nice treat to have for dinner. 

I had just read an article in our local paper about making the "perfect hamburger", and that inspired me to do just that.  One of the keys, the article said, is to use 80% lean ground beef.  I had been using the leaner variety, so this would be a change for me. 

Unfortunately the only package with 80% ground beef in our local Wegman's was the family pack, which came in at a hefty eight pounds!  A bit larger than I had desired.

I will give you what I did with the "hefty ground beef package", but adjust your proportions appropriately.

All in all, the hamburgers were delicious and we enjoyed them for several more meals throughout the weekend.


Hamburgers a la Tom

8 pounds 80% lean ground beef (adjust appropriately for your meal(s))
2 pouches dry Lipton Onion Soup Mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup A1 sauce
3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumb
Hamburger buns

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl several hours prior to cooking.  This will allow the dry Lipton Onion Soup Mix to hydrate, as well as the bread crumbs to absorb some moisture.  Cover the bowl and put back into the refrigerator.

30 minutes or so prior to grilling, pull the ground beef mixture out of the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to a medium high temperature.

Form your hamburger patties to an appropriate size.  I used about 2/3 cup of the ground beef mixture.  I rolled the ground beef into a ball in the palms of my hands, and then flattened to "bun size".

Time to grill.  The temptation is to turn the hamburger patties too soon, which will cause them to both stick to the grill as well as to start falling apart.  Another good trick is to wet a paper towel with vegetable oil and rub it over the hot grill grates.  Be careful though that you don't burn yourself.  A quick wipe is all that is needed.

Grill on one side for five minutes.  Time it and don't cheat.  Then flip the burgers over and grill to the "doneness" that you desire.  I grilled mine an additional three minutes, which made the burgers medium.

If you want, add a slice of cheese to each patty and cover the grill for about 30 seconds.  This will allow the cheese to melt but not become runny.

Place a burger on a bun, add whatever accoutrements that you want, and enjoy.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pickles! by Sarah

Pickles! by Sarah

I've had the perfect storm of pickle creativity!  An abundance of fresh dill, a curiosity about mason jars, and a life long love for pickles drove me to create a pretty good first try at my own dill beauties.

We are first time members of a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture) through a great urban farming initiative called the Massachusetts Avenue Project or MAP.

MAP has a farm and a youth development program on the West Side of Buffalo which is an under served area in terms of fresh healthy food availability. 

Every Tuesday we pick up fruits, veggies, herbs, and other treats that have been grown and produced here in the city.  A few weeks ago fresh dill graced our share two weeks in a row and naturally cried out for a pickle solution!

Being an inexperienced pickler I decided quick pickles or refrigerator pickles should be the easiest process and require the fewest tools for success.   

I read an article last year about historic blue and green mason jars going back into production last year so a quick visit to Target lead to some lovely little blue mason jars to hold hold the pickles.  With the addition of some english cucumbers and onions from Wegmans, we were ready to begin the experiment.

Armed with jars, ingredients, and a recipe from Epicurious the pickling began.  I used a quarter inch slicer on the food processor to slice the cucumber for consistency and of course time savings.   I also used rice vinegar for a milder flavor as suggested in the recipe.  

Being my father's daughter, I, of course, tweaked the recipe just a bit by adding garlic ramps from our CSA for a mild garlic flavor and halved the sugar to tone down the sweetness.

Overall the recipe was simple, the flavor nice and dilly, and the opportunity to try a new food adventure was a success!  We used them all weekend during the Fourth of July on burgers, sandwiches, and as a side.

Will definitely tackle these tasty pickles when fresh cucumbers come into season in Western New York!  Enjoy!

Be sure to check out the follow links for more information on MAP and Epicurious's recipe information.

Massachucetts Avenue Project

Slightly sweet dill refrigerator pickles


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tom's Fabulous Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tom's Fabulous Chocolate Chip Cookies

The kids and grandkids were visiting us at the lake for the long July 4th weekend, and we decided we needed something "sweet" for both snacks and desserts to nibble on.  The perfect solution was to make a big batch of my chocolate chip cookies. 

I started making a version of these cookies back in the 80s.  I started with the basic Toll House cookie recipe and expanded it for variety.  Each time I would make them, I would do something different.  This time was no different.

One ingredient that I think makes the cookies different and very tasty is the addition of butterscotch chips.  I love butterscotch, but I know everybody does not share this passion. 

So, although I did make some number of cookies with butterscotch chips, I did make the majority this time with mini-M&M's.  The picture above shows both varieties.  The lower left cookies have both chocolate chips along with butterscotch chips.  The right hand side shows the mini-M&M's.

My sous chef for this baking experience was our seven-year-old granddaughter, Grace.  She did the majority of the mixing and placing of the cookie dough on the baking sheets.  She did a great job and also got to sample the batches as they cooled before anyone else.  One of the benefits of helping.  We also made a special heart-shaped cookie just for us.  That was our special treat!


Tom's Fabulous Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from the Toll House cookie recipe on the package)

Makes approx.60 3" cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter - softened
1 stick Crisco shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
3+ cups white flour (adjust the amount for proper consistency - mostly stiff batter)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag mini-M&M's candy
3/4 bag butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl cream the butter and shortening with a mixer until light and fluffy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix these thoroughly.

To the dry mixture add the eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract, half & half and milk.  Thoroughly stir this mixture up.

Now fold in the creamed butter and shortening.

Once thoroughly mixed together, add the whole wheat flour.  Mix this in well.  Now start adding the white flour a cup at a time.  Stir in the flour each time and judge the consistency of the batter.  The first cup or two will still be pretty wet.  I find that somewhere between 3-4 cups of white flour is what is needed.  The batter should be fairly stiff and hold together well.

Divide the batter into two portions.   Put half of the semi-sweet chocolate chips into each half.  In one half, add the mini-M&Ms.  In the other half add about three-quarters of the bag of butterscotch chips.  Don't worry about having any butterscotch chips left over.  Our three year old granddaughter Lauren (Lulu) who told me she does not like butterscotch pretty much finished the bag herself after she discovered that she actually does like butterscotch.  Grace and I helped ourselves as well.

On a large cookie sheet, spoon out about 1 generous tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheet in rows.  We were able to put about 15 on each sheet keeping about 1-2 inches between scoops.  Bake for about 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  The edges should just be getting brown and the cookies themselves a very light brown.

After baking, let cool on the sheet for about 3-4 minutes.  Then transfer to a cooling rack.  After they are cooled, transfer again into your storage container.  Don't be surprised if a few of them disappear before that happens either to your sous chef or to other interested bystanders.

The fact that I have been making this cookie for about 25 years should tell you that they are pretty good!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Neelys' Pulled Pork

Messy and Delicious!
Neelys' Pulled Pork Sandwich

The Neelys say that when you put cole slaw on top of your pulled pork sandwich it is called a "Jumbo."

Whatever you call it, it is delicious!  Their recipe for pulled pork with vinegar slaw is top notch!

Last Sunday, we invited David over to participate in the taste test and then served it again on Monday night to our friend, Cindy.  Everyone thought it was great.

Smoked paprika, cumin, mustard and celery seed 

Their recipe for pulled pork caught my eye because it uses smoked paprika and celery seed among the rub ingredients.   Previous recipes I have tried used things like garlic and liquid smoke.  Or rosemary and garlic.

Plus the Neelys have a good reputation for southern food and I hadn't ever tried one of their recipes.

*Pat and Gina Neely had their own BBQ restaurant in Memphis before becoming popular hosts of the Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys.  

Now they have two cookbooks and 4 restaurants:  2 in Memphis, 1 in Nashville and the newest one is in New York City, called Neely's Barbecue Parlor.

Neelys' Pulled Pork
(from AARP magazine June 2014)

Serves 10-12

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 T. smoked paprika
1 T cayenne pepper
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. celery seed
1/2 t. mustard powder
8.5 pound bone-in Boston Butt
10-12 hamburger buns
Barbecue Sauce  -- your choice (we like Dinosaur BBQ's Slathering Sauce)
Vinegar Slaw (see below)

4 hours or one day ahead:
To make the dry rub, mix together the sugar, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, celery seed and mustard powder.  Reserve 4 T. for serving later on.
Generously rub the pork butt with the seasoning, then cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day in advance.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Line a roasting pan with heavy-duty foil.  Place the pork in the roasting pan, fat side, up and cook until tender, about 8 hours.

Once the meat is tender, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before shredding.  (It is hard to stop yourself from sneaking a few bites before it has rested.)
To shred it, use two forks.  It will fall apart.  David and I did it together and it took us about 10 minutes to shred the meat.  Remove any excess rub and fat as you go.

Dinosaur BBQ's Slathering Sauce goes perfectly 

Pile each bun with some pork, BBQ sauce, and slaw, if desired.
Serve with extra rub.

My Version of Neelys' Vinegar Slaw

Serves 4
  • 1 bag of pre-packaged cole slaw (sliced cabbage, carrots)
  • minced onions -- about 2 T. 
  • 1 T dijon
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a serving bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and minced onions.  Give them a toss.
2. Whisk together the mustard, sugar, vinegar, vegetable oil, celery seeds, cayenne, salt and pepper until emulsified. Pour over the coleslaw; toss well again. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Notes from B:

I was very hesitant to roast the pork uncovered but it turned out moist and tender.

I was also leery of serving the BBQ sauce at the table, and not coating the meat with sauce before serving, but not doing so, really let the meat shine.

Also, I have never served the rub as a condiment at the table.  Others tried it and liked it, but somehow it seemed like too much to me.

But the cole slaw on top was a great addition!  Messy but delicious.  I am thrilled to find a cole slaw that I really like that doesn't use mayonnaise.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Summer Beans

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Summer Beans

Note from B:  Reposting this from a few years ago  --- can't wait to do this again this summer.

I saw the idea for this combination in a Bon Appetit magazine recently, and modified it for the way we like to cook in the summer, i.e., keep it easy and cook as much as we can on the grill.  Especially when it is hot and no one wants to be in the kitchen.   You can do everything for the delicious summer meal., except the salad, on the grill.
Chops and Peaches Coming off the Grill and Resting
We had never grilled peaches before, but now we will!  They were an excellent side for the pork chops.
Thick or Thin?
We bought our pork chops from Morgan's Market in Penn Yan--which is a great place for meats, if you don't know about it.  The butcher asked Tom if he wanted "thick or thin", and he said "thick".  We ended up with these monsters, and they were great.

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Summer Beans
(loosely adapted from Bon Appetit, June, 2012)

For the pork chop rub:
1 pork chop per person
Garlic powder
Coarse grain mustard
Marjoram, fresh or dried
salt and pepper
For the peaches:
1 peach per person, washed and cut in half, stone removed, skin on
olive oil
For the beans:
a mix of yellow and green beans, washed and trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme, several sprigs
An hour or so before dinner, pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, then generously apply garlic powder, a layer of mustard, salt and pepper and pack marjoram leaves on top.  Do this to both sides.  Let sit until the meat comes to room temperature, and it will be ready to grill.
Coat the halved peaches with olive oil.
On a large piece of aluminum foil, place the beans in the center, add olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme leaves, then toss to coat.  Place a thyme sprig on top, and warp tightly into a packet to go on the grill.
Grill the pork chops for 24 minutes, 12 per side without moving them.   Add the beans with 10 minutes to go.  Add the peaches with 6-7 minutes to go.

Serve them together.

Add a nice summer salad of fresh greens, tomatoes and Parmesan with a balsamic - olive oil vinaigrette.

And toast the dog days of summer.