This is our family’s favorite pancake recipe, but the need to go gluten-free for my wife meant a change in the ingredients. Fortunately, my favorite go-to all-purpose flour, “Cup 4 Cup,” worked so well in this recipe, there was no difference in taste or texture.
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1 cup all-purpose flour (or Cup 4 Cup original multi-purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups milk and the juice of 1 large lemon)
zest of 1 organic lemon
1 large egg
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, slightly cooled
1–2 teaspoons avocado oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild, rinsed and dried
Whisk the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl
to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, lemon zest, and melted butter into the buttermilk to combine.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl. Pour in the milk mixture and
whisk very gently until just combined. Do not over mix. A few lumps are OK.
Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and use a brush to coat the skillet
bottom evenly. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into 3 spots on the skillet. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the
blueberries over each pancake. Cook the pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear,
about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using a thin, wide spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until they’re golden
brown on the other side, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer.
Chow down immediately!
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PICKLED BEETS

Posted: August 23, 2015 in beets, Food, pickling, Recipes
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Growing up in a Lithuanian family, there was a small group of foods that I had to love to survive, since they constantly appeared on the dinner table: potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, herring, and beets. Fortunately for me, I loved them all, despite my Mom’s desire to boil everything to death.

One of the many uses for beets, besides soups, was pickling. Pickled beets are an excellent side for any hearty meat dish. (I love ’em with kielbasa or steak!)  I add hard-boiled eggs and hunks of onion to the mix because I like them. If you don’t like ’em, leave ’em out and just add more beets.

I combined store-bought already-cooked beets (the brand is called Love Beets) with Chiogga beets that I grew in my own garden and peeled and roasted before pickling.

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4 to 8 beets, scrubbed (your favorite variety)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 Vidalia onions, quartered
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
6 fresh dill sprigs

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about an hour, until tender. When cool enough, carefully peel and quarter them.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, peppercorns and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer over moderately high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let the pickling liquid cool to warm, about 15 minutes.

In a heat-proof glass jar or container, layer the beets, onion, eggs,  and dill sprigs and then cover with the pickling liquid. Let stand at room temp for 2 hours, then place in fridge overnight.

They stay fresh for a week, but they won’t last that long!

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Now’s the time to head to your local farm stand and pick up a bag of gorgeous plum tomatoes, before the season is gone! And this is what you do with them…

These are not sun-dried tomatoes. They’re better, because fresh plum tomatoes are still moist after roasting, with a bit of that magic tomato liquid in every cup! A great, simple platter to offer at parties.

Tomatoes before

Tomatoes before

12 to 18 halved, seeded plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
Freshly ground pepper
Fleur de Sel or sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 250.

Line a baking sheet with foil and rub it lightly with olive oil.

Arrange halved and seeded tomatoes on it in a single layer, cut side up. Drizzle evenly with 1/4 cup olive oil, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, and season with pepper to taste.

Bake the tomatoes until they are still juicy but slightly wrinkled, about 3 hours. Transfer to a platter and let cool slightly.

Just before serving, sprinkle tomatoes with Fleur de Sel, and garnish if you like, with chopped parsley leaves, mint leaves, or basil.

Tomatoes after

Tomatoes after

I had a pound of leftover lobster meat (I know, I know…how could you ever have leftover lobster?!) So I wrapped it tightly and kept it frozen. When I had a craving for crab cakes, I figured I’d try my recipe out with lobster instead. So good, I sprained my arm patting myself on the back!

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1 cup mayo (I like Hellman’s)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (I like Maille)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. cooked lobster meat (thawed, if frozen)
3/4 cup saltine crackers or oyster crackers
Olive oil

In a bowl, combine mayo, mustard and Old Bay Seasoning.

Chop the lobster into small pieces and add it to the mayo/mustard mix.

Pulse the crackers in a food processor until it resembles oatmeal. Add it to the bowl and gently combine the ingredients.

Form small patties. I use either a small beef slider mold or the lid from a small mouth Mason jar. I won’t kid you: it gets messy, but it’s worth it! Place the patties on a sheet pan lined with Reynold’s non-stick aluminum foil.

Place the sheet pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes to stiffen up the patties.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Cook the patties on both sides until golden brown.

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If you do your share of Italian recipes, a common product found in just about any store has many people confused: San Marzano tomatoes. Most good cooks agree that San Marzano tomatoes are some of the best canned tomatoes you can buy.

But unfortunately,  the label can say “San Marzano tomatoes” even if they are not real San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano is a region in Italy near Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, and the special combination of climate and volcanic soil make these plum tomatoes world-famous. They have less water, fewer seeds and are picked off the vine when perfectly ripe, then processed the same day.

But San Marzano is a variety of tomato, too…and so you can have a can of San Marzano tomatoes that are not from San Marzano. And to add to the confusion, there’s actually a brand of tomatoes called San Marzano, with tomatoes grown in the United States. Bet your ass the sellers of these tomatoes are counting on you not to know the difference!

Sold everywhere, but not real San Marzanos from Italy. Grown in the USA.

The company has now changed their label, just calling it "SM."

The company has now changed their label, just calling it “SMT.”

Real San Marzano Tomatoes are a very old variety, extremely limited in quantity, grown and produced exclusively in the San Marzano region of Italy. Because production is so very limited, the Italian Government and the European Union have formed a way of protecting consumers from fraud by having San Marzano tomatoes tightly controlled. DOP, or denomination of protected origin, is the mechanism that the government is using to control the production and marketing of genuine San Marzano tomatoes. Labels for DOP products must be individually numbered and manually applied to each can in specific lots and government officials must oversee this application. So here’s the deal: unless you see “DOP” on the label with a hand-stamped number on the can, it’s not a real San Marzano tomato.

Nope. Italian, but not from the region.

Nope. Italian, and the correct variety, but not from the region.

Nope. "San Marzano region," but not necessarily the variety.

Nope. “San Marzano region,” but not necessarily the variety.

Nope. San Marzan "style."

Nope. San Marzan “style.”

Yes! Always look for D.O.P. on the can or jar.

Yes! Always look for D.O.P. on the can or jar.

 

KOHL-SLAW

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Food, garden, Recipes
Tags: , , , ,

Kohlrabi is probably one of the most misunderstood vegetables you’ll find in the supermarket. Most people don’t have a clue about what to do with them. Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family and can be eaten raw as well as cooked.

For me, the real joy of kohlrabi is biting into a crunchy, sweet, freshly picked and peeled bulb right out of the garden. Unfortunately, much of the kohlrabi you find in a supermarket is grown larger than a tennis ball, making it tough, woody and dry. And they usually remove all the leaves, which are delicious cooked or raw.

I decided to make a slaw with the leaves and bulbs of my kohlarabi harvest, to best use all the parts of the plant. I used my Awesomesauce as the dressing. Find the recipe here: http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-gT

kohlrabi LTL

2 kohlrabi bulbs, with leaves
1 carrot
Alz Awesomesauce
salt and pepper to taste

 

Wash the veggies thoroughly before using. Pull the leaves off the kohlrabi bulb, and remove the stems. Grab a bunch of leaves at a time, roll them up tightly, and slice as thinly as you can into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl. Do this with all the leaves.

Peel the thick skin off the kohlrabi bulb and slice it as thinly as you can. Then take the slices and cut thin sticks out of them. Toss into the bowl.

Season the leaves and bulbs slices with a little salt and pepper, then add Awesomesauce to taste and toss well.

Refrigerate covered, and let the flavors blend for a couple of hours before using.

When I used to go to my favorite barbecue place and asked for a pulled pork sandwich, I didn’t realize just how much work went into making it. Now I make my own, and I have a whole lotta new respect for those barbecue folks…

 

pulled pork

First, I get the pork butt. I buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta), from a farm that humanely raises them. That’s better for the pig and also better for my family.

Going to a supermarket for pork is what many people do, and the names of the cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Despite its name, pork butt is not from the back-end of the pig. It’s the shoulder. And the pork butt (or pork shoulder) picnic is a lower cut of the same area. These cuts can also go by: Boston shoulder roast, Boston butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt, and shoulder-blade roast. Whatever the name, these are all nicely marbled hunks of pork that usually weigh in anywhere from 6 to 8 lbs, and are easy to find. Bone-in is for purists…boneless if you’re not.

Once I’ve got my slab, I need to season it. I’ve found that a simple rub is the best way to go for the sauce I’m going to use later.

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it up to blend.

Once I’ve made the rub, I generously sprinkle it all over the pork, and rub it in really well. I have a digital smoker at home, which lets me cook and smoke my pork butt all in one place. I place it on a rack, put a drip tray underneath it to catch the grease, and set the smoker for 225 degrees. I cook the pork for about 6 hours, and then I add hickory chips to the smoker and smoke the butt for another 2 hours. The marbled fat in the pork butt slowly melts over time and the pork becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.

I remove the pork butt from the smoker and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 20 minutes before pulling the meat apart with a couple of forks, shredding it into beautiful meaty bits.

While the pork is cooking and smoking, there’s plenty of time to make two other very important parts of this recipe: the sauce and the cole slaw.

saucey

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

 

COLE SLAW

My cole slaw recipe uses pickle juice. Just a splash from your favorite jar of pickles is all you need.

1 package of cole slaw veggies
splash of pickle juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
teaspoon celery seed (not salt)
salt and pepper

There are no real specific measurements for cole slaw, because I’ve found that some people like it dry, others wet…some peppery, some not. Play around with it and make it your own. I prefer a more mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and usually err on the wet side.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. When ready to use, re-mix, and taste for seasoning before using.

 

OK…time to make that sandwich!

Drizzle the barbecue sauce on the pulled pork and mix well…trying not to over-sauce the pork! Take a nice amount of pork and place it on a freshly baked bun. Place the cole slaw right on top if you prefer the Carolina method, or on the side if not.

Whether you decide to go through all this trouble to make pulled pork or not, just remember that if you’re at a barbecue joint, someone else did. Whatever you pay for that pulled pork sandwich is a bargain!

My friend, Lee, recently bought a second home in Kennebunk, and it was all the excuse I needed to head up there and check out the town I visited with my parents during my childhood. My trip was less about the Lithuanian Franciscan monastery my parents would make a point to visit, and more about hitting every bar and restaurant we could in a 24-hour period.

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I arrived at lunch time and we went straight to David’s KPT, one of three restaurants owned by chef David Turin, who owns two others in nearby Portland. I ate at the original David’s in Portland a few years ago and was not impressed, so it took a little coaxing to get me to come here. David’s KPT menu is simple, basic seafood, and for a restaurant on the water with great views, that’s about all you need. Nothing particularly creative here, just the basics, like fresh oysters and a rather bland lobster salad. Its key location also makes it a tourist trap and so they jack the prices up, so some oysters go for $3.50 each! I don’t even pay that in New York City.

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After lunch, we took a ride along the beautiful rugged Maine coast, passing the Bush family compound and the line of cars parked on the road with people taking snaps of the house for their scrapbooks. We stopped In Cape Porpoise, still a part of Kennebunkport, at a funky joint called The Ramp.

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On the water, The Ramp is crowded and noisy, with all kinds of old posters and souvenirs on the walls and ceiling, ranging from a NYC World Trade Center subway station sign to a “Vote for Marcos” campaign poster from the Philippines. We had to put our names on a list just to sit at the bar. But that was OK…we had a cocktail while waiting. By the time we finished our drinks and were ready to leave, our turn came up at the bar, so we handed our space off to the next person in line and moved on.

Our lovely server at The Ramp. Notice photos of former Presidents behind her.

Our lovely server at The Ramp. Notice photos of former Presidents behind her.

Back on the road, we drove into town, found a rare parking space on the street, and walked over to Tia’s Topside,with their signature giant lobster claws in the front yard.

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The menu was no great shakes, and it was clear the dude working the bar already had his fill of tourists for the season. No eye contact, just a “What do you guys want to drink?” That was a thumbs down in our book.

Walking back to the car, we popped into Ports of Italy for a pop. Looking at the plates of the people next to me at the bar, it seemed like we stumbled into a local version of the Olive Garden. The website makes everything we saw look much better. But we passed on the food. Generic drinks.

Clearly, the amount of drinks we had, and were still going to have, was going to be an issue, and Lee, being the driver, was behaving to avoid any trouble with the law. Police are everywhere in Kennebunk, and they are notorious for pulling you over for even the slightest infraction. So we headed back to the condo to park the car and wait for the taxi we hired for the night to take us to dinner and beyond.

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The culinary focus of the trip (I made reservations two months earlier) was Earth at Hidden Pond, a Ken Oringer restaurant in the center of a luxury resort just a short drive out of the center of town, hidden in the woods, surrounded by ridiculously expensive cabins.

Outdoor seating, great atmosphere at night when they light the torches and the fires.

Outdoor seating, great atmosphere at night when they light the torches and the fires.

Oringer is a crazy-talented chef, a Food Network “Iron Chef America” winner with a half-dozen respected restaurants to his name: Toro in Boston (personal favorite) and NYC, Clio in Boston, Coppa (excellent!) in Boston, and Uni in Boston. I was very glad to see that Earth lived up to my expectations.

The well-stocked bar at Earth.

The well-stocked bar at Earth.

Our evening got off to a slow start. It was a Saturday night, yet the main bartenders were nowhere to be found. (We heard that one was out due to a leg injury.) The woman that served us was great to talk to, but she clearly did not have a grasp on the crafting of the more complicated cocktails that Earth was known for. Our first drinks were good, but she literally had to read the recipes off a card to make them. And when I asked for Antica Formula in my Manhattan, she didn’t know what that was.

Enter Josh, a young, energetic bar assistant, who saw this as an opportunity to show off his mixology skills. He jumped right in and offered us a cocktails he created, and we welcomed his refreshing enthusiasm. I can’t even remember the ingredients list he had for each cocktail, but we thoroughly enjoyed them, and he custom-crafted them if we didn’t like a particular ingredient.

Small plates: meatballs, chicken wings with sesame and squid ink, shishito peppers.

Snacks: meatballs, chicken wings with sesame and squid ink, shishito peppers.

We started with a few apps, or snacks as they called them. The meatballs were good, average meatballs. The shishito peppers, roasted and salted, are a Ken Oringer signature dish, also served at his Toro restaurants. Usually 1 out of 10 are hot, but we had more than a few spicy bites on our plate. The chicken wings with squid ink were incredible: sweet, salty, briny. Probably the best wings I’ve ever had, and I’m dying to figure out how I can make them at home. I had a chance to talk to executive chef Justin Walker, and after he explained the process in detail, it was obvious it wouldn’t be easy!

A luxurious plate of seared foie gras followed. Couldn’t have been more perfect.

But after the foie, we had a dilemma: We made plans to have the taxi pick us up from the restaurant at 8:30, giving us 2 1/2 hours to eat dinner. It was after 8 already, and we had to focus on leaving, despite the fact that we didn’t have an entree yet. Our bartender suggested perhaps a dessert, and we decided to order a second plate of chicken wings to end our meal!

I was bummed that we didn’t give ourselves enough time to have a complete dinner. I suppose that meant we were having a good time and not just shoving food down our pie holes. It’s also my excuse to come back to Earth to “do things right” the next time!

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Our last stop was back in town at Old Vines, a wine bar that also serves great food. Though we were seated quickly at the bar and got our first drinks, it seemed like forever before we could get the attention of our female bartender who was far more interested in the other females at the bar than us two old guys. Hey, I understand that, but we wanted to order some food. It was only when the owner showed up that we were asked what we’d like to eat and by then we were told the kitchen may be closed. Fortunately, we ordered two cold dishes, so they were easy to prepare: beef carpaccio and a burata salad. Both were excellent.

A cab ride home, and it was time to pass out.

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The next morning, breakfast was back in Cape Porpoise at The Wayfarer, a local favorite for years. Always crowded, we managed to find a couple of seats at the bar. Crowded because the menu offers breakfast favorites with their own twist: a scramble of the day, housemade sausage, and interesting takes on standards, like lobster and pork belly eggs Benedict.

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The creativity of this dish was excellent, the execution not so much. Hey, I love pork fat, but the pork belly wasn’t cooked enough so it was rubbery and the lobster meat was cold–should’ve been warmed through before putting it on top of the eggs.

That’s OK…lots of good coffee and smiling faces were a welcome sight the morning after a big night of drinking!

The ride back to Rhode Island was a bit rough with a hangover. Next time, it’ll be 48 hours in Kennebunkport and I’ll make sure I get some rest!

 

Great fried shrimp is like sea candy…you just can’t get enough. This recipe is easy and really delicious. Never use anything but wild-caught American shrimp!

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1 lb. wild-caught USA shrimp
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 raw egg, scrambled
avocado oil or pork fat, for frying

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Combine the flour, corn meal, Prudhomme seasoning (see below) and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Scramble the egg in another bowl and set aside.

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Remove the entire shell, or leave the tip of the tail, depending on your preference.

Heat a pan with an inch of the oil. When it reaches 325 degrees, it’s ready for frying.

Dip the shrimp in the egg, and shake off any excess. Then toss the shrimp in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Carefully place the shrimp in the pan of oil.

Cook the shrimp for about 45 seconds, flip them over, and cook for another 45 seconds, until they’re golden brown. Don’t crowd the pan and never overcook shrimp!

Drain on paper towels and serve immediately!

It takes less than a minute to fry the shrimp. Don't overcook!

It takes less than a minute to fry the shrimp. Don’t overcook!

 

The shrimp are delicious by themselves, but here’s an easy remoulade to make along with them…

1 cup mayo
1/4 cup Gulden’s mustard
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine the ingredients and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

 

It’s a bit of a cheat, but I find the Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning has great flavor and works really well for this. I also use it on fish: simply pan saute a filet in butter, and sprinkle on the seasoning. I originally started with the small jar found in most supermarkets, but then quickly graduated to the jumbo size can found online!

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GARDEN HARVEST!

Posted: July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

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This is what all the hard work in the spring is all about: walking into my garden and picking 4 varieties of tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, Chiogga beets, and fennel.

Now, I’ve got some cookin’ to do!