I moved to a new place last fall. One of the toughest things to say goodbye to in my previous garden was my asparagus patch. Over the years, I had grown loads and loads of delicious asparagus, but sadly, there was no good way to transport that patch to my new place.

I’ve got a much smaller garden space in my new home, but asparagus is too important of a crop to leave out. So I bought a bunch of plants this spring and planted them. I wasn’t get anything this year, except maybe some beautiful asparagus ferns at the end of the season, but I’m hoping the plants settle in and get happy enough to produce even a small crop next year.

In the meantime, I have to look back at my previous success with asparagus…

The home garden is already showing signs of activity. Overwintered kale and arugula plants are springing back to life, enough for a quick salad. Cool weather seeds that I’ve sown early: peas, turnips, radishes, broccoli raab, and others are sprouting. But nothing says the gardening season is here like my patch of homegrown asparagus taking off!

asparagus2013

Asparagus is really easy to grow. You just need the space, and the plants practically do the rest.
Space them about a foot apart, and before you know it, you will have a vast network of tasty stalks sprouting through the soil every spring. They are so much better than anything you can buy in a supermarket.
In the start of the growing season, the stalks don’t even make it into the house. I cut them and just eat them straight out of the garden. Eventually, they make the move to the kitchen, where I love to simply place them on a baking sheet and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Salt and pepper…and then in a 400-degree oven until they’ve caramelized.

Sometimes I toss some tasty chives with blossom buds on top of the asparagus and roast.

Midway through the season, I have so much asparagus that I just don’t know what to do with them all. My friends don’t want anymore and I can’t bear to throw them into the compost pile. So I pickle them…a really easy process that ensures I’ve got delicious asparagus year-round.

PICKLED ASPARAGUS
Several bunches of asparagus spears
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups water
20 peppercorns
Garlic cloves, peeled
Salt (1 teaspoon per quart-sized Mason jar. Use less for smaller jars.)
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Set it aside.
Trim the bottom of the asparagus spears so that the spears are just slightly shorter than the height of the quart-sized Mason jar you will use. Or cut them into pieces that will fit smaller jars.
Pack the jars as tightly as you can with the asparagus spears. (They will shrink when processed.) Add the garlic clove and 1 teaspoon of salt to every quart-sized Mason jar…less for smaller jars.
Fill the jars with the vinegar mixture and seal.
Process the jars for 10 minutes. Let them cool before placing them in the refrigerator.

DOES YOUR PEE SMELL WHEN YOU EAT ASPARAGUS?

Asparagus has a sulfur-containing compound identified by scientists as methyl mercaptan. A colorless gas, this compound is also found in blood, feces, garlic, eggs, cheese and even skunk secretions. Another ingredient found in asparagus is asparagine. Present in foods like dairy products, seafood, poultry, fish and nuts, this amino acid is known to have a distinctive smell when heated. To metabolize both methyl mercaptan and asparagine, your body needs to break these compounds down and it’s this breakdown that’s responsible for your urine’s strange smell.

Since both methyl mercaptan and asparagine are associated with the sense of smell, there is debate over which ingredient is actually responsible for the asparagus-urine phenomenon. It could be one, or both.

Many people claim that, regardless of asparagus consumption, their urine does not smell. There are multiple theories about that as well. The first claims that everyone’s urine is in fact affected by asparagus, but only about half of the population have the specific gene that is required to smell the change. On the other hand, the second theory states that only half of the world’s population has the gene that’s required to break down the compounds found in asparagus and, if the body doesn’t break them down, no smell is emitted. In fact, one study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people tested did. So whatever the reason, asparagus will forever be known as the vegetable that makes your urine smell strange.


There’s no problem with your bird, she said to me
Just go low and slow to cook it perfectly
A few choice seasonings end up deliciously
There must be 50 ways to roast your chicken…
There’s nothing better than a whole roasted chicken. Simply season it, pop it in the oven and go low and slow. No maintenance, and you’ve got a great bird in a couple of hours. 
Once you go with humanely raised pastured chicken, you’ll never go back to supermarket chicken again. The flavor is fantastic, and you’ll devour it right down to the bones, which you can use to make the best home-made chicken stock or soup you’ve ever had. Nothing goes to waste.
I roast at least one chicken every week, so to change it up, I’ve come up with many different rubs and sauces over the years. All of the rubs are sugar and gluten-free preparations. 
Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon
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The lemon serves double-duty in this dish. You use the zest to season the outside skin, then you place the remaining cut up pieces inside the carcass to flavor from the inside out.
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons salt
zest from 2 lemons, using a micro plane zester, the leftover lemons quartered
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
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In a bowl, combine the rosemary, garlic, salt, lemon zest, and pepper. 
Thaw a bird, remove the giblets, and rub it all over with olive oil. Shove the quartered lemon pieces into the carcass of the bird. Season the bird inside and out with the rosemary seasoning mix.
Place the bird on a pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil in a pre-heated 450-degree oven. Cook for 10 minutes at this temperature, then reduce to 275 degrees and cook low and slow until done.
Tarragon Chicken
I love the taste of chicken seasoned with tarragon. Careful with this, or you will accidentally devour your fingers!
1 tablespoon dried tarragon, crumbled into a powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
olive oil
In a bowl, combine the tarragon, garlic salt, salt and pepper.
Thaw a bird, remove the giblets, and rub it all over with olive oil. Season the bird inside and out with the seasoning mix.
Place the bird on a pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil in a pre-heated 450-degree oven. Cook for 10 minutes at this temperature, then reduce to 275 degrees and cook low and slow until done.
Italian Chicken
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The darker color of the bird comes from rubbing it first with balsamic vinegar, then olive oil, before coating it with Italian seasonings. Don’t use the fancy, expensive balsamic. The bottles that go for about 9 bucks in the supermarket work well for this recipe.
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Thaw a bird, remove the giblets, and rub it all over with the balsamic vinegar. Then rub it all over with the olive oil. Season the bird inside and out with the seasoning mix.
Place the bird on a pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil in a pre-heated 450-degree oven. Cook for 10 minutes at this temperature, then reduce to 275 degrees and cook low and slow until done.
My Grandma’s Chicken
My grandmother would cook chicken thighs low and slow all Saturday morning, knowing that I was coming over for lunch after Lithuanian school. The meat just fell off the bone, and I couldn’t stop eating it. This recipe is so simple and works just as well for a whole bird. Every time I make this, I think about those days at my grandmother’s house.
Lawry’s Seasoned salt
Olive oil
Thaw a bird, remove the giblets, and rub it all over with olive oil. Season the bird inside and out with the Lawry’s Seasoned salt.
Place the bird on a pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil in a pre-heated 450-degree oven. Cook for 10 minutes at this temperature, then reduce to 275 degrees and cook until done.
If you’re using chicken thighs, like my grandmother did, make sure they have the skin on and the bone in.

Our annual BOYZ weekend at my house is over, and it was a huge success. No small factor in that success was the food we all brought to the table. I made my lobster rolls, and got thumbs-up from all who tried them.

Last year, I was having dinner at The Boat House restaurant in Tiverton, RI, with my buddy, Lee, who lives in Maine half the year, and we started talking about what makes the perfect lobster roll.

Often, when you go to a restaurant and order one, they’ll first ask if you want it cold with mayonnaise or warm with butter. (A warm lobster roll with melted butter, we were told by our bartender, Cayce, is called “Connecticut style.”) The three of us discussed the mayonnaise-to-lobster ratio, and other significant factors. The final conclusion was that everyone likes their lobster roll a little differently.

It’s certainly easy to go to a clam shack or seafood restaurant to get one, but nothing beats making one yourself.

The lobster roll at The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Delicious and fresh. But it breaks one of my cardinal rules about lobster rolls. (Go to the bottom of the page.)

When I make my own lobster rolls, freshness is key. I always start with live lobsters. I get them from my lobster man buddy, Gary, just down the street at his dock in Tiverton, RI. Gary’s brother runs the Sakonnet Lobster Company on Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI.

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary's lobster boat, the Edna Mae

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary’s lobster boat, the Edna Mae

Once you’ve bought your live lobster, the next step is to cook it right. Some people steam and some people boil. I’ve always been a boiler myself. I fill a large pot half-way with water and add sea salt. I bring it to a rolling boil before the lobsters go in. And then I do the math…

I boil my lobsters for 10 minutes for the first pound. I add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. For example, a 2-pound lobster should boil for 13 minutes and a 1 1/2-pound lobster should boil for 11 1/2 minutes. And if I’m boiling more than one lobster, the same rule applies: 3 2-lb. lobsters = 6 pounds. So 10 minutes for the first pound, plus 3 minutes x 5 for each extra pound (that’s 15) for a total of 25 minutes. (These times are for hard shell lobsters. I reduce the boiling time by 3 minutes if I’m cooking soft-shell lobsters.)

Remember, you’re going by total weight of all the lobsters, because the more you have, the longer it takes the water to return to the boil once you put them in.

Lobster catch LTL

A larger lobster is not always better. My uncle used to buy the largest lobster he could find, and it was impressive when he placed at the center of the dinner table. But the meat was like rubber. And personally, I felt bad for the old lobster that made it that far in life. His last days should’ve been in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. But at 1 1/2 pounds, you have the perfect ratio of meat-to-shell…with lots of delicious meat that is still sweet and tender. It’s perfect.

After the lobsters have been removed from the pot and have cooled for a few minutes, I get to work: cracking the claws and tail and removing every bit of beautiful meat I can find. Lobster lovers will tell you that the legs have some meat in them and that the tomalley (the green liver and pancreas) and roe (eggs) are delicacies not to be missed. For the purpose of making lobster salad, I don’t use these parts. But I do save the tomalley and roe for a separate treat…and I save all the legs and cleaned empty shells for lobster stock.

Cleaning lobster legs is easy: simply remove all the legs from the body and place them flat on a cutting board. Grab a rolling pin, and one at a time, roll the pin over the lobster legs, starting at the claw end and working your way up. Like a tube of toothpaste, the meat will squeeze right out of the leg!

Lobster roll LTL

Now for the important stuff. What goes in a lobster roll, and more importantly, what doesn’t… I have very strong opinions in this matter.

First, there should NEVER be anything green in a lobster roll! No celery, no pickle, and it certainly shouldn’t be sitting on a bed of lettuce! Nothing should be crunchy in a lobster roll! The magic is in the texture of the perfectly cooked lobster meat. Don’t mess with it!

NO paprika or Old Bay seasoning!

A pinch of celery salt? Yes!

Mayonnaise? Only Hellman’s!

White pepper, not black, and just a touch.

Salt? A pinch of Fleur de Sel or other fine finishing salt.

And the secret weapon to bring out all the flavors: the tiniest squeeze of fresh lemon juice…not enough to give it lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, you can’t go wrong with Martin’s potato long rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag, or to take a page from the Connecticut-style lobster roll lovers: lightly grill the rolls and brush them with a little melted butter!

Despite what many of the labels on the bottles say, there are really only two kinds of balsamic vinegar: the highly prized, DOP-regulated, aceto balsamico tradizionale (or traditional balsamic vinegar)—and everything else.

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Much like the olive oil market, the world of balsamic vinegar has been so messed up and confused that what most of us consider to be balsamic vinegar really has nothing to do with the genuine article.

Aceto balsamico tradizionale is the pinnacle of all vinegars: produced by hand in small quantities using methods that are hundreds of years old, it has the consistency of maple syrup, and costs anywhere from $150 to $400 for a 3.4 ounce bottle.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good (even excellent) less expensive balsamic vinegars out there. It just means you have to do a lot of label reading to make sure you’re getting a good thing.

DOP stands for Denominazione de Origine Protetta, meaning food products whose origins are identifiable in the taste, texture or “perfume” of the product and produced in a specific region with all the ingredients coming from that region. This is all carefully overseen by the Italian government and it is a big deal when it comes to quality.

In order to bear the name aceto balsamico tradizionale, every aspect of its creation, from grape to bottle, is carefully regulated by DOP standards. The vinegar undergoes a lengthy transformation that takes a minimum of 12 years. To keep competition fair, each producer is allotted a specific number of bottles he can sell, which is indicated by a numbered tag on the bottle’s neck. Bottles from Modena are usually bulb-shaped, while bottles from Reggio nell’Emilia are bell-shaped. A red cap means the vinegar is at least 12 years old, while a vinegar that is 25 years of age or more has a gold cap.

Back in the 1980’s, when the balsamic vinegar craze hit the United States, many chefs looking for exotic ingredients in their dishes started using balsamic vinegar. It became an overnight sensation, and the demand was too great for these small handmade batch producers to handle. And so the market for inexpensive balsamic vinegars was born: vinegars that bear little resemblance to the real thing, using ingredients like cider or red wine vinegar, sugar and artificial coloring.

So can you buy a good vinegar if you don’t have wads of money to spend?

Well, the next step down from the top-shelf stuff is called aceto balsamico condimento—what we see in the stores as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (although some are produced outside of Modena) and they average in price from $20 to $60 a bottle. They’re kept in less expensive wood barrels, and are aged less than 12 years.

And then there’s the stuff you commonly find on supermarket shelves.

Some simple tips on what to look for on the ingredients label: Since the really good stuff is very expensive and should never be cooked or reduced, look for high quality non-DOP balsamic vinegars. Look for those from Modena and Reggio nell’Emilia with Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento on the label to guarantee the age. Even if this stuff is too expensive for you, at the very least, make sure that “grape must” is the first ingredient on the label and that its acidity is not above 7 percent.

I recently found a bottle of balsamic vinegar under the brand name Modenaceti. A 16.9 oz. bottle goes for about 15 bucks on Amazon. Is it the good stuff? No, but  it’s great in a salad dressing or a marinade. The only ingredient listed is balsamic vinegar of Modena, and its acidity is 6%.

Here’s a really good and simple recipe you can make with this inexpensive vinegar. Of course, finding a good port is similar to finding good balsamic. Find something in a lower price range that you be willing to drink, and use that in cooking as well.

PORT WINE/BALSAMIC VINEGAR STEAK SAUCE

½ cup port wine
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red grapes, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Place the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and reduce by half. Use this sauce on steaks, burgers, even ribs.

After missing a year due to the pandemic, BOYZ weekend at my house returns this year on Kentucky Derby weekend. Although they ran the Kentucky Derby last fall, it’s nice to see it back on its original first weekend in May. All us boyz have gotten our vaccines, but we’ll still be doing all the necessary social distancing. And, of course, we’ll drink plenty of alcohol to kill all the germs.

The Mint Julep is such a perfect, classic and historic bourbon drink, it seems silly to wait until Derby Day to have one. Of course, as any aficionado of spirits will tell you, there are as many right ways as wrong ways of making one.

The first step in my Mint Julep is making the simple syrup. Learning from one of my old radio buddies, my pal Rick O’B, I infuse mint into my simple syrup to take my cocktail to the next level. I use the standard ratio of 1 cup of clean, filtered water to 1 cup of sugar, using an organic product like Woodstock Farms Organic Pure Cane Sugar. I place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. I’ve found that it needs to reach this stage for the sugar to really dissolve. As soon as it starts to boil, I remove the saucepan from the heat, and throw in a handful of freshly picked mint leaves, stirring to make sure the mint gets in there, and then I leave the saucepan to cool to room temperature. Once it’s at room temp, I strain the simple syrup into a bottle with a tight sealing lid, and place it in the refrigerator to cool. It will keep for about a week.

An equally important ingredient for a perfect Mint Julep is the ice: specifically, crushed ice from clean, filtered water. Don’t even think of using tap water for any cocktail much less this one. Why ruin an expensive bottle of bourbon by going cheap on the ice? I make my own ice cubes, then put them in an untreated canvas ice bag and bash them with a mallet to the perfect crushed size. Untreated canvas bags for crushing ice can be purchased online from bar supply companies for about $30. I got an untreated canvas tool bag (the exact same shape and size) at Home Depot for 3 bucks.

Da bag.

The next step is a little tougher: which bourbon to choose. The explosion of choices on the bourbon market has made it all but impossible for the average imbiber to know which bourbon is best for their tastes. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you go to a trusted bartender and explain that you’re new to the bourbon world, and could you have the tiniest of tastes and sniffs of what he’s got at his bar. Chances are, you’ll get a sampling of some of the better known brands: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, perhaps Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, and the standard Jim Beam. This is a very good start. If you have deeper pockets, go to the manager of a trusted higher-end liquor store and explain that you’ve had all the rest, now what does he think is the best? (Also, hinting to wife and friends that “I’m trying new bourbons” around your birthday or Father’s Day inevitably gets you a few bottles as well!)

My go-to bourbon for Mint Juleps is the very affordable Eagle Rare 10-year-old at $32.99 a bottle…and you can never go wrong with the classic Maker’s Mark. It’s always on sale around Derby Day.

Finally, a Mint Julep needs a metal–not glass– Julep cup. Made of pewter or aluminum, it frosts on the outside as you stir your drink, keeping your beverage ice-cold on even the hottest of days.

3 oz. bourbon
1 oz. mint-infused simple syrup
crushed ice
Julep cup
Fresh mint for garnish

Crush the ice and pack it into the Julep cup, even letting it dome slightly over the top. Don’t worry…the alcohol will melt it.

I like to add 1.5 ounces of bourbon, then the ounce of simple syrup, then another 1.5 ounces of bourbon on top. Break off a few mint leaves from the stem and push into the ice. Using a long spoon, stir the drink well. A beautiful layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup. Add more ice, if necessary, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

A nice selection of bourbons. This is an old photo: that Pappy Van Winkle is long gone…but I saved the bottle!

My annual BOYZ weekend returns this year, after missing a year due to the pandemic. We’ve all got our shots, and we’re ready to party!

When I asked the guys what I should cook, it was a loud shout of “BRISKET!” I got the message. I will be preparing this recipe on the Saturday of our weekend.

On Friday, when we all first arrive, we’ve made it a tradition to go to a great local restaurant, and this year, it’s Fluke Newport in Newport, RI. We’ve got a limo rented from our friends at Rockstar Limo, so we can drink and have someone else do the driving. And, coincidentally, there’s a story behind this brisket recipe and the head chef of Fluke.

We’ve dined at Fluke for many years, but big changes happened a couple of years ago when they hired a new chef. We met Chef Eddie Montalvo just after he had arrived at Fluke, and we were impressed with his new menu.

We came back for another visit a short time later, and meeting Eddie again, we thought we would invite him and his family to our home for a visit.

Well, that “someday” arrived, and the reality of cooking for a real chef for the first time in my life made me a bit nervous, to say the least!

I went to Twitter for some help. Since I follow a number of chefs, I asked the question: I’m cooking for a real chef for the first time. What’s the #1 tip you can give me? Only one chef answered, but it was none other than Andrew Zimmern, and he said simply: “Be yourself.” Be myself? Yeah…I think I can fake that!!!!

So I started thinking…Chef Eddie works with seafood all day at Fluke. Skip that. He’s Italian and makes amazing homemade pasta. Skip that. What do I love to cook and do pretty well…?

Barbecue!

I have a beautiful grass-fed Angus beef New Zealand brisket in my freezer. That’s what I need to make! A simple, comfort-food meal. Barbecued brisket…twice-baked sweet potatoes…a big old salad…and as an appetizer: my no-fail recipe for Oysters Rock-a-Fellow! (OK, I had to get a little seafood in there.)

When I smoke my brisket low-and-slow in my smoker, I use a coffee steak rub that I developed a couple of years ago. It gives a deep, rich crust to the meat that is just fantastic.

Low and slow is the way to go! Deliciously smokey and juicy.

Depending on the size of the brisket, you might need to double the recipe.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

If the brisket is frozen, I like to thaw it a couple of days ahead of cooking it, rubbing it down with the coffee rub, and placing it in the fridge for about 24 hours to rest. I bring it out about an hour before smoking, to let the meat come back to room temperature, and then I place it in the smoker for about 12 hours at 225 degrees, smoking it with hickory wood.

When it’s done, I remove it from the smoker, and wrap in foil and let it rest at least 30 minutes before slicing diagonally against the grain of the meat. If I’m not serving it right away, I place the wrapped brisket in the oven at the lowest setting, about 150 degrees, just to keep it warm.

When I’m ready to serve, I always slice the brisket on the bias, against the grain of the meat.

The brisket was a huge success. And only later did I find out that Chef Eddie also worked for one of the most prestigious barbecue joints in New York: Blue Smoke. I think I would’ve passed out if I knew that ahead of time!

Read my blog about Chef Eddie and Fluke here: https://livethelive.com/2018/07/08/fluke-in-newport-a-new-chef-brings-new-creativity/

Check out my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow recipe here: https://livethelive.com/2018/11/01/oysters-rock-a-fellow-improved/

For my family, a Caesar salad is the only salad to serve on special occasions. But it all starts with a little history…

If someone told me that the classic Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana, Mexico, I’d say they were crazy. But that’s one bizarre truth in the creation of one of the world’s most iconic salads.

Famous restaurateur, Caesar Cardini, ran a restaurant in San Diego back in the early 1900’s. But when Prohibition hit the states, he opened another location in Mexico…Tijuana, to be exact, luring many of the day’s Hollywood stars across the border. They could gamble in Mexico, and they could feast on food and alcohol at Cardini’s.

The story goes that one July 4th, they were running out of food, and thinking quickly, Cardini created a salad at the spur of the moment, using only the ingredients he could find in the kitchen. Having the chef assemble the salad tableside meant it came with a grand performance, and word quickly spread of the incredible “Caesar salad.” (Cardini named it after himself.) Cardini’s is still at its original Tijuana location, and they serve thousands of Caesar salads, with a flamboyant tableside show, to tourists.

Though Cardini didn’t believe anchovies should be in his salad (they say Worcestershire was used instead), anchovies were eventually added when his brother, Alex, tweaked the recipe years later. (The Worcestershire was removed.)

It needs to be said that raw egg yolks are used in Caesar salad, and if you’re not comfortable using them because of salmonella concerns, you shouldn’t. Sometimes coddled eggs (slightly boiled) are used. Some stores, though not many, sell pasteurized eggs in the shell. I haven’t had a chance to use them–or even find them. Many recipes contain a variety of egg substitutes. But for me, it ain’t a Caesar without raw egg, so I’m willing to take my chances.

This Caesar recipe was introduced to me by my wife, and remains the best I’ve ever had.

The ingredients.

The first really important ingredient to get is a wooden bowl. No other bowl will do. We have an old wooden bowl at home with almost mystical properties that is used for nothing but our Caesar salad, and I have to say that it makes all the difference in the world.

The mystical wooden bowl. Years of Caesar salads have given it a special seasoning.

Once you have the bowl, what matters most is the freshest, best quality ingredients you can find: farm-fresh eggs, not supermarket ones…Parmigiano Reggiano, not generic Parmesan. The best quality extra virgin olive oil. Fresh lemon juice. Freshly cracked black pepper. High-quality anchovies. And organic Romaine lettuce. (Organic bibb or leaf lettuces make great substitutes.)

After that, it’s all about the love.

The process begins…

4 raw egg yolks
8 oz. good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
fresh garlic (optional…see below)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
4 anchovies
the juice of 1 lemon
4 oz. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 heads organic Romaine lettuce, washed, stems removed, torn by hand

Place the egg yolks in the wooden bowl and whisk them until well mixed.

While whisking the yolks, pour the olive oil in the bowl VERY SLOWLY, whisking all the time, never stopping. Keep pouring the olive oil slowly until you’ve whisked all of it into the eggs and you get a beautiful emulsion.

Keep whisking and add the Dijon mustard, then the black pepper.

In a separate small bowl, mash the anchovies with a fork–even better, use a mortar and pestle, if you have one. Don’t leave any chunks. Slowly add the mashed anchovies to the wooden bowl, mixing them in with the whisk to combine the ingredients. You want them to dissolve completely in the dressing.

Once the dressing has reached its desired consistency, add the lemon juice and whisk some more.

Whisking slowly, sprinkle in the Parmigiano Reggiano.

When it’s all mixed together, dip a finger in the dressing and give it a taste. Does it need more lemon juice to cut the oil? Slice a second lemon and add a little. Taste again. Is the tartness of the cheese dancing on your tongue? If not, grate more and add a little more. Enough black pepper? There should be enough salt from the anchovies and cheese.

If you think you’ve “got it,” add the Romaine leaves to the salad bowl and toss gently to coat the lettuce.

When serving, top each salad serving with a little more cheese. Extra anchovies are optional.

If you’re saying “where’s the garlic?” …you’re right. Every good Caesar needs some. This recipe would use about 1 tablespoon of fresh, finely chopped garlic, added after the mustard. If I’m cooking alone, I always add the garlic. But we have people in our household that are allergic to garlic, so when family is here, we leave it out. The flavors of the dressing are so deliciously intense, you’ll be surprised how good it is without it!

This is a great fried chicken recipe that has been a huge success at parties over the years. and more importantly, it’s my daughter’s favorite as well.

I lived in Mobile, Alabama back in the late 80’s, and if you asked the locals, they’d quickly tell you that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, not New Orleans.

Joe Caine paraded through the streets of Mobile dressed in a Native American costume in 1868, and is credited for our current way of observing the Mardi Gras celebration. Of course, it’s hard not to think of New Orleans when you hear the phrase “Mardi Gras,” and I spent many a weekend on the streets and bars of the Crescent City back in the mid-80’s.

It was then that I fell in love with Cajun food, and needed to learn how to cook it myself. I bought cookbooks by two of the greats: Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme. I learned about layers of seasoning, and often I’d use those ideas in my own dishes.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 1990, I had yearly Mardi Gras parties at my house, and I cooked massive batches of these Cajun chicken breasts, using a spice mix I learned from my cooking experiments.

Double-dipping in the seasoned flour is a messy step, but it makes them extra crunchy and flavorful.

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1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts
4 eggs
oil for frying (I like using avocado oil and some pork fat for flavor)

Cut the chicken breasts into manageable pieces. If they’re thick, slice them horizontally to make two thinner breasts. A thick piece of chicken won’t cook all the way through. Plus, you want more crunchy crust per bite…trust me!

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, basil, black pepper, thyme, white pepper, and cayenne in a bowl. Mix well.

I like to separate the 4 eggs, placing 2 eggs in 2 separate bowls. This keeps the first bowl “clean” and not gummed up with flour. You’ll see what I mean once you start, because it’s a bit messy. So, crack 2 eggs in the first bowl and the other 2 eggs in the second bowl. Scramble them up and put the bowls on either side of the seasoned flour bowl.

Pre-heat a pan of oil or a fryer to 350 degrees.

Dip the chicken in the first egg bowl and then the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and dip the chicken in the second egg bowl, making sure the flour is covered by egg. Then dip the chicken back into the flour for a second coat. I like to bread all of my chicken pieces before I start frying them so that I can get my hands clean for the next step.

Carefully place the chicken in the pan. Fry the chicken until it’s cooked all the way through and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Nothing like a hot, fresh batch!

If you need to feed a crowd, just double or triple the recipe. I used to make a 10x batch for my Mardi Gras parties!

When I started a new diet last year, one of the major changes in my eating habits was to incorporate more seafood and less meat into my meals. Seafood has a lot more protein and fewer calories. In fact, shrimp, lobster and oysters are some of the most delicious low-calorie foods you can enjoy, running about 1 calorie per gram. It’s what you add to them–oils, melted butter, batter–that makes them high in calories.

I’ve always loved sushi, but again, on a diet, I need to limit my intake of unnecessary calories, and rice is big on that list. I’ve found that I can use a lot less rice, or maybe none at all, when I make poke…and I get all the satisfaction of sushi or sashimi.

My two favorite fishes to eat raw are ahi tuna and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, like sockeye. There are many great purveyors of this super-high quality seafood online, and I usually buy a decent amount of fish at one time–hermetically sealed and frozen in 4-ounce packages–to last me a long time. (The price is often much better when you buy in quantity, because they have to be shipped frozen overnight.)

Yes, please.

There are many ways to prepare poke, and the only limitations are what’s in your fridge. The first recipe, using salmon, is closer to a traditional poke recipe you’d find in a restaurant.

6.5 ounces wild-caught Alaskan salmon, in the refrigerator (thawed, if previously frozen)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
1 scallion, green and white parts finely chopped
Keep the thawed salmon in the refrigerator. Remove the salmon from the fridge, and remove the skin if it is still on the fish. Cut the fish into half-inch cubes. I like to place the salmon cubes on a clean paper towel to absorb excess moisture from thawing. Then I place the salmon cubes in a bowl and put it back in the fridge while I combine the other ingredients.
In another bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk them together.
Chop the cashews and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Cut the root ends off the scallions, chop the green and white parts finely, and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Add the salmon to the bowl, mixing gently, so that you don’t damage the fish.
Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, if you can wait that long, and then: eat!
My tuna poke recipes have also used similar ingredients…
More recently, I mixed up a batch of what I call my “Asian Mix,” a blend of five Asian flavors that really work well together: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I let my tuna or salmon marinate in this mix for about ten minutes before adding the other ingredients and feasting.

Tuna poke with lettuce, onion, pine nuts, black and white sesame seeds, rice and my “Asian Mix.”

But my proudest achievement was taking my favorite sandwich from my home town of New York, and making it into a bowl. The sandwich is an everything bagel with salmon and cream cheese, and my poke version uses just a bit of the bagel, yet you still get the flavor without all the calories. The secret is a seasoning you can buy already prepared.
3 oz. wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, cubed
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 small Vidalia or sweet onion, sliced very thin
1/2 tomato, seeds removed, sliced thin
1/4 of a toasted plain bagel
1 tablespoon cream cheese
2 teaspoons Everything Bagel seasoning
1 chopped hard boiled egg
Cut the salmon into small 1/2″ cubes and place it in a bowl. Add the tablespoon of capers (including some of the brine), chopped onion and tomato. Mix gently.
Toast the bagel and use only 1/4 of it (I use that little for the sake of calories. But you can use more, if you like!) Spread the tablespoon of cream cheese on the toasted bagel, then carefully chop it up into small cubes. Add this to the bowl. Sprinkle in the Everything Bagel seasoning and the chopped hard-boiled egg, and give it all one last gentle toss.
Then take a forkful, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in your favorite New York deli!

I’ve got dozens of chicken wing recipes,  but even so, sometimes I just want something different. I decided to take my favorite taco seasonings recipe and adapt it to chicken wings. Caramba! One of the tastiest wings I’ve made in a long time!

This is such an easy and delicious recipe to make, even for a crowd. At your next party, just double or triple the recipe, as needed.

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
avocado oil
4–5 lbs. chicken wings

 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine the salt, cumin, oregano, paprika, onion, garlic, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the wings out on the sheet. Sprinkle the wings with the avocado oil and rub the oil all over the wings. This will help the wings cook evenly,  and it’ll help the seasonings stick to the wings.

Turn the wings bottom-side-up and sprinkle with the seasoning mix. Flip the wings over and sprinkle them again, coating them evenly.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.