I love onion dip, and really good onion dip is hard to find…you’ve got to make it. It’s not difficult to do, and it’s worth the effort. Great with chips or veggies, it’s perfect for TV binge munching.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
chopped chives, to garnish

In a pan over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil and salt until they are soft and barely caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the heat and set them aside to cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except the chives, then add the cooled onions and mix well.

Refrigerate the dip and stir again before serving. Sprinkle the chopped chives on top to garnish.

Not a very complex idea. I just put the stuff that’s usually on the outside, on the inside of my burgers. Why? Why not?

If I’m making bacon cheeseburgers to bring to a barbecue, even if it’s on my back deck, instead of bringing a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently in the patties. And as the burgers cook, the fat from the bacon and the gooey cheese melt and combine with the burger meat to make a really tasty and moist burger.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using grass-fed beef.

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2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
garlic salt
avocado oil or pork fat

 

In a bowl, combine the beef, the cheese and the bacon, mixing well so that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Form the beef into 1/4 lb. patties. Refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook to firm them up.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a drop of oil or pork fat. Place the burgers in the hot skillet to sear and sprinkle with the garlic salt. When browned, flip the burgers and place the skillet in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking.

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Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s simple yet fantastic if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

 

You can find Graviera cheese in most supermarkets.

 

I found a slab of Graviera cheese at a local supermarket, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty darn amazing.

I like using peeled and deveined 24–30 shrimp, because larger shrimp don’t always cook through. These smaller shrimp will be bite-sized and delicious.

 

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

200g package (7 oz.) grated Graviera cheese
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 lb. (about 24) shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo
salt and pepper

 

Peel and devein the shrimp (or you can buy them that way already.) Place them in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set them aside.

In a large pan, sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add the red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the raw shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the shrimp have cooked through. I like to finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese brown and melty.

 

shrimp saganaki

 

 

A few years ago, we were invited to a very cool retro summer party: cocktails and appetizers from the 60’s, and everyone contributed to the music by bringing in their favorite songs on vinyl.

We were also asked to contribute to the apps, so I brought waffle chips with clam dip.

 

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2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3 6-oz. cans of chopped clams, drained, liquid reserved from one can
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients, except the clam liquid, in a bowl and mix them well with a fork.

Add 1 tablespoon of the clam liquid and mix well. Keep adding the clam liquid until the dip reaches a consistency you like.

Serve with the potato chips.

 

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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 the Sakonnet Lobster Company on Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI.

 

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!

 

I love chicken because it reheats really well for leftovers. When I make this recipe, I make a good amount to last me through the week. These sweet, spicy and sticky Thai-inspired chicken wings and drumsticks are just delicious!

 

 

6 lbs. chicken pieces
1 1/3 cups soy sauce
1 cup fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or crushed dried chiles
2 teaspoons salt

For the marinade, combine the soy sauce, cilantro, canola oil, garlic and white pepper in a food processor and let it run. Place the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag and pour half of the marinade in. Save the other half for basting later. Seal the bag and let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight, or at least a few hours at room temperature, squishing the bag around so that all the chicken gets marinated.

For the sauce: In a saucepan, combine the sugar, white vinegar, pepper flakes and salt. Bring it to a boil and make sure the sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

After marinating, discard the used marinade in the Ziploc bag. Place the chicken pieces over a hot hardwood fire or bake them in an oven at 350, basting them with the leftover marinade until fully cooked. If the coal fire gets too hot, move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill to prevent burning. If using the oven, switch to the broiler at the end to give the chicken a nice char.

Serve the chicken pieces with the sweet pepper sauce drizzled on top.

thai chicken LTL

CHAR-GRILLED CLAMS

Posted: July 26, 2022 in Uncategorized

Ever since I had char-grilled oysters in New Orleans recently, I’ve been obsessed. I’ve made them at least once a week every week since I’ve been back. But the other day, I went to my local seafood store and I saw some beautiful clams, and I thought: Why not try those on the grill?

I had some friends over a couple of days ago, and I made my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow recipe for them, and I had some leftover gooey cheesy stuffing that goes on top of the oyster. I thought: Why not use it on the clams and then put them on the grill?

A hybrid recipe of two previous recipes, and it really worked!

The first step is to make the gooey cheesy stuffing mix ahead of time.


1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until translucent, then add the milk, salt and pepper, and the arugula. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring, so that all of the arugula wilts down.
Slowly add the cheddar until it all melts, then add the mozzarella, stirring slowly, until you have one big gooey mass of goodness in the pan.

Pour the gooey cheese mix into a shallow pan and place it in the fridge for a few hours. It will firm up and you will be able to cut it easily into cubes that you will then place on top of the clams.

Once the cheese mixture has firmed up, and it’s time to cook, start a hardwood charcoal fire in your grill.

Open the clams and put them on a tray, topping each clam with a cube of the firm cheese and arugula stuffing mix.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of each clam.

When your charcoal grill fire is hot, place the clams on the grill and cook until the cheesy topping melts and the clams have a nice char to them.

They will be lava hot when they come off the grill, so give them a few minutes before eating!

This is a story about my Mom’s dad, my grandfather. Born in Lithuania, he came here during WWII. He was a short man, barely 5’5″ tall, but he was the strongest man I ever knew. As a kid, I watched him crush walnuts, and even hazelnuts, in his bare hands. He would go out into the water at Rockaway Beach, and the waves would hit him head-on, but never knock him down. He had little or no formal education, but he could fix or build anything, from concrete driveways to dog houses. And no matter what chore he took on, he wore a white shirt and tie with a vest while he did it. He never became a US citizen because he had a hard time with the English language, but he maintained his legal alien status, and spoke enough English to work in the kitchens of several high-end restaurants in Queens, NY.

My maternal grandfather, Vaclovas Lukosevicius. A helluva name and a helluva guy. Now I know where I got my receding hairline!

I smoked my first cigarette with him when I was 12, and we had a good talk about it after my face returned to a lighter shade of blue-green. We would walk to his favorite bar on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, the Triangle Hofbrau (it’s still there) and they let me sit at the bar, snacking on pretzels with a 7-Up while he enjoyed a beer. My Mom was an only child, so I was the only grandson, and nobody made me feel more special than he did.

One of my grandfather’s passions was horseradish…homegrown, homemade horseradish.

It’s been 50 years since I watched my grandfather dig the long, dirty, gnarled horseradish roots out of his garden with a sharp spade, lunging at the ground with all of his strength to cut through the thick fibers of the plant.

After harvesting a large piece, he would wash the dirt from it and then peel it, leaving behind a beautifully smooth white root.

He had a large bowl set under a grater, and he would hand grate the horseradish root with incredible speed. But no matter how fast he went, the potent vapors released by the root would make their way to his eyes, and he was forced to stop several times to wipe the tears away with his old handkerchief and regain his composure before returning to grate the root again.

Onions were child’s play compared to horseradish, and I understood why he did all the preparation just outside of the kitchen door of his Queens, NY home.

Once grated, he would add some water, vinegar, and salt, and his prepared horseradish was complete. He’d store it in tightly sealed glass jars in the fridge, and when it was time to sample the goods, he would carefully open a jar, poke his knife in, and spread the prepared horseradish over beef, beets, twice-smoked bacon, or anything else he desired.
I’d watch his face slowly turn red, small beads of perspiration developing on his forehead, and he’d turn and smile at me and tell me in Lithuanian: “Labai skanu!” (Very tasty!)

At the age of 10, I couldn’t figure out what he saw in horseradish, but it didn’t take long before I was hooked myself, as it was a staple at every family dinner table.

Opting for the stuff that came in a jar in the supermarket, I never made my own prepared horseradish until almost 50 years later.

I’ve had a huge horseradish plant growing in my garden for years, and I just never got around to doing anything with it. But one night, as I was preparing my cocktail sauce recipe and I realized that I was out of prepared horseradish, it became clear that the time of reckoning had arrived. It was time, in the finest tradition of my grandfather, to make my own prepared horseradish.

Freshly harvested horseradish roots
Freshly harvested horseradish roots

I went out to the yard with a sharp shovel and lunged at the horseradish plant, splitting a few roots off of the main crown. I pulled them out of the ground, detached the long leaves, and headed back to the kitchen.
Today’s kitchen technology gave me a distinct advantage over my grandfather, and after washing and peeling the root, I chopped it into smaller pieces and tossed them into a food processor. No hand grating necessary!
The processor pulverized the root in no time, and I added water, vinegar and salt as my grandfather did, being very careful not to stick my face too close to the opening of the processor where the vapors were their most powerful.
A small taste on my tongue just about had my eyeballs shoot out of my head, and I muttered silently to myself: “Labai skanu!”

My grandfather would be proud.

Horseradish is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, cabbage, wasabi, and broccoli. The horseradish root itself hardly has any aroma. But when you crush it, enzymes from the broken plant cells produce mustard oil, which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. To keep the horseradish from losing its pungency and freshness, vinegar must be added immediately.

Prepared Horseradish

6 oz. fresh horseradish root, peeled
6 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 pinches of salt

Chop the horseradish root into small pieces and add water, vinegar and salt. Process until proper consistency is reached.
Careful! Use proper ventilation or the vapors will blow your eyeballs and sinuses out!

ALL HAIL THE BEEF FLAP!

Posted: July 20, 2022 in Uncategorized

As recently as a couple of years ago, I had never heard of beef flap. But I purchased one from Slanker’s, a distributor of grass-fed beef out in Texas, and it’s become one of my favorite cuts of beef.

You won’t find beef flap in most supermarkets…at least I haven’t been able to find it…so online ordering may be one of the only ways to give it a try.

Beef flap is also known as bottom sirloin butt, and it comes from a part of the cow where flank steak comes from, only farther back. So it has its similarities to flank.

Beef flap is wonderfully marbled and is fantastic for a variety of dishes, including fajitas, stirfrying, or just enjoying it grilled.

I’ve marinated beef flap in many different ways, with Asian flavors and classic American BBQ spices, but one of my favorite ways is to give it a marinade that is similar to Italian dressing.

Some folks actually use bottled Italian dressing to marinate meat, but I prefer to make my own.

Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Granulated garlic
Granulated onion
Dried oregano

Combine these ingredients in the proportions that you like in a bowl, mixing thoroughly.

I like to trim the beef flap, removing any silver skin that might be on it, and cutting it into pieces that are about 4” square and 1/4” thick. If the meat is too thick, I slice it lengthwise in half, to make a thinner cut. I place all the beef in a Ziploc bag, pour the marinade in, squeeze the air out of the bag and then seal it tightly.

I squish the bag all around to make sure that the marinade makes contact with all the meat, and I place the bag in the fridge overnight. (I usually put it in a bowl or tray, just to avoid any accidental spillage.)

The next day, I remove the meat from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before I cook it on a hot hardwood charcoal grill.

Beef flap cooks quickly on the grill, especially if you like it medium-rare, but because it has that fat marbling, it still stays juicy even if you like it well done.

And if you can’t get outside, a hot cast iron grill on the kitchen stove works just as well!

It’s that time of year when friends are coming over, and you want to make one drink you can serve everyone, rather than playing bartender all night. This one hits the spot.

There’s only one thing better than a freshly made mojito…and that’s a pitcher of freshly made mojitos! Organic raspberries and blueberries are in the markets right now, and my mint plants are taking over the yard! All the ingredients for a great mojito!

Very often, I’ll use raspberries alone, but mojitos are even better when you combine the raspberries with blueberries. I stock up on organic berries, rinsing them and placing them in plastic bags that go in the freezer until I’m ready to make my mojitos. I always go organic with berries. Pesticides should never be a cocktail ingredient!  Pay a little extra and get the good stuff…it makes a difference!

Once you make mojitos by the pitcher, you’ll never have them any other way. (Even if you’re drinking alone!)

 

The ingredients

 

Make ahead of time…
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/3 cups turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw is a common brand)

Mix both ingredients together, letting it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. I like to combine them in a Mason jar, then shake really hard until the sugar has dissolved. I keep it in the fridge, and it’s good for up to 3 weeks…ready to use any time. Shake it well again before using.

 

mojito pitcher

For the Mojitos…
1 cup sugar/lime mixture
1 cup mint leaves, packed
1/2 pint blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 pint raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3 or 4 cups white rum (I use Don Q Cristal rum)
3 or 4 cups club soda or seltzer

Combine the mint leaves and 1/2 cup of the sugar/lime mixture in bottom of a pitcher. Muddle the mint up very well to release mint oils. Add the blueberries and continue to muddle.

Add the remaining sugar/lime mixture, rum and raspberries. Mix well. Just before serving, add the club soda and ice. Stir. Pour into tall glasses.

Or…for drinks one at a time, I put in a shot of the sugar/lime mixture into a tall glass. I throw in about 8 mint leaves and muddle them for a minute. Then I add 2 shots of rum, and a few raspberries and blueberries. I muddle again.  I add ice, and I top it with the club soda, stirring well. An option is to pour it all into another tall glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.

 

Cheers!

Cheers!