Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

One of our favorite restaurants in Southern New England is The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts, and one of their best-selling appetizers is a simple but delicious deviled egg plate with raw tuna on top. It’s so good, it’s the only thing on the menu that my wife and I refuse to share…we always get a plate for ourselves!

We can’t always get back to the Back Eddy, so when the cravings hit, I make my version of this dish at home. Of course, my version has a lot less finesse to it…but a lot more tuna, which is what I crave! It takes a little time to make it, but it’s so worth it…

 

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6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup + extra mayonnaise
8 oz. high quality raw tuna
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
fish roe (optional, see below)
handful fresh spinach, or cucumbers (see below)

 

My favorite method of hard-boiling eggs is to put them in a pot of cold water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn the heat off and place a lid on the pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Perfect eggs every time. Remove the eggs from the water and cool them in the fridge, or in a bowl of ice water if you’re going to be serving this dish right away.

Here in Rhode Island, I can get fresh tuna right off the boat. Ideally, they say you should freeze all raw seafood before eating it. In general, killing parasites requires freezing and storing fish at a surrounding temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for seven days; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees or colder until the fish is solid and storing at the same temperature for 15 hours; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees until the fish is solid and storing at minus 4 degrees or below for 24 hours.

That’s a lot of work and worry. I find that I can get high quality tuna already frozen into convenient bricks at Whole Foods or on-line at websites like Vital Choice, one of my favorites for extremely high quality, responsibly sourced seafood.

I always try to buy responsibly sourced, fair trade seafood, like this beautiful ahi tuna.

 

If the tuna is frozen, let it thaw a little. If it’s fresh, place it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. That makes it easier to cube up. Slice the tuna carefully into the smallest cubes you can make. Once done, place the tuna in a bowl and put it back in the fridge to continue its slow thawing until ready to use.

In a separate small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the chili oil. Set aside.

Finely chop the scallions. Set aside.

Once the eggs have cooled, peel them and cut them in half. Scoop out the yolks and place them in a bowl, starting with 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise. Add more mayo if needed. Mix well. I use a fork or whisk to get as many of the lumps out as possible. If you want to go crazy, you can put them in a blender or food processor to make a creamy puree. You can place the puree in a piping bag and carefully squeeze it out into each egg half. I simply use a spoon.

Once all the egg halves are filled, place them on a spinach leaf-covered dish and put them back in the fridge until ready to serve. Or, instead of the bed of spinach, peel a cucumber and cut the ends off. Slice the cuke into 1/2″ thick slices. Then, using a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds from the center to make a “cuke donut.” Use these as little stands to hold your eggs on the plate.

When you’re ready to serve, take the tuna out of the fridge. Pour the soy sauce/chili oil mix into the bowl with the tuna and mix well. Let the tuna marinate for just 2 minutes. Pour off the excess marinade, or it’ll get too salty.

Remove the plate of eggs from the fridge and carefully put a small spoonful of tuna on top of each one. Garnish with the sesame seeds and the chopped scallions and serve immediately.

 

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Fettuccine Alfredo are my daughter’s two favorite pasta dishes. When she couldn’t decide which one she wanted for dinner one night, I decided that she’d get both! (Yes, I spoil my girl rotten!)

The addition of chicken and peas made for a more balanced plate. This is now one of my go-to dishes when guests arrive, since many parts can be prepared ahead of time. And the gluten-free version tastes as good the original!

 

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Start with the chicken…

The breading for the chicken uses gluten-free bread that I’ve toasted, crumbled and put into a food processor to make breadcrumbs. You get a lot more flavor this way than using store-bought GF breadcrumbs from a can. I add gluten-free flour to it to lighten it up. Cup4Cup is by far the best GF flour I’ve tried.

If you’re not on a GF diet, simply use regular breadcrumbs and all-purpose flour in the same proportions.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg, scrambled
4 oz. sliced gluten-free bread, toasted (I use Udi’s frozen bread)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil, for frying

Scramble the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces, and add them to the egg, making sure they get evenly coated. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with about an inch of olive oil. Heat to medium-high, for frying.

In batches not to overcrowd the pan, take the chicken pieces out of the egg and toss them in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Place them carefully in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden. Since they’re small pieces, they should cook all the way through easily. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Do this with all the chicken and set it aside. Try not to eat it all before you make the rest of the dish! (This chicken can also be eaten as is–these are my daughter’s favorite nuggets–or used with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to make a delicious chicken parmigiana.)

 

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The carbonara factor…

Many recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara use pancetta or bacon. But the original recipe calls for guanciale: cured (but not smoked) pig jowls, or cheeks. It’s easy enough to find in a good Italian food store, but I cure my own. I buy raw heritage Berkshire pork jowls from a farm that raises the pigs humanely, and cure the jowls for about 3 weeks in a combination of salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Then I rinse them, pat them dry, and cut them into portion-sized pieces, which I wrap individually and freeze until I need them. It’s a lot of work, but to me, totally worth it.

3 oz. guanciale

If the guanciale is frozen, let it thaw just a little, then cut it into the smallest cubes you can manage. Place it in a pan and cook them until they’ve browned and crisped beautifully. Keep an eye on the pan, as guanciale can burn easily. Use the fried meat bits for this recipe and save the fat for flavoring a future dish! Set aside.

 

The Alfredo sauce…

Despite what you get in crappy restaurants like Olive Garden, Alfredo sauce should not be runny or soupy. It should cling to the pasta and be rich in flavor. When making this dish gluten-free, I use Garofalo gluten-free pasta exclusively, because it tastes just like real pasta. (Believe me, I’ve tried every GF pasta out there.) I buy mass quantities at Amazon.

If you’re not on a GF diet, simply use your favorite regular pasta.

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. pasta, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper

 

Put 2/3 of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened a bit. Turn off the heat.

Drop the pasta in a bowl of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. (Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer.) Either way, you want to cook the pasta even firmer than al dente, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately when it reaches that firm stage, and transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, tossing the pasta gently for a few seconds to coat.

Turn the heat under the saucepan on low, tossing the pasta, coating it with the sauce. Add the rest of the cream, all the Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of pepper (no salt because there’s plenty in the guanciale and cheese.) Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is well-coated.

 

At this point, you don’t want the pasta to get to dry, so you add…

1 cup of frozen peas

…tossing gently to warm them through. Also add the cooked guanciale at this time.

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Plate the pasta in a bowl or dish and serve the chicken alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing says summer here in New England like a lobster roll. But I don’t go to a clam shack to get one. The prices are ridiculous, the meat can be overcooked, and they often add ingredients I don’t want.

I start with fresh lobster. I get it 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. It’s just steps away from Saule, our rental property. (Check it out at http://www.sauleri.com)

 

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-to-2/3’s 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 per pound, for the first pound. Then 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. These times are for hard shell lobsters, if cooking new shell (soft shell lobsters) reduce the boiling time by three minutes.

 

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 be in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. At that weight, 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!

 

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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 lettuce leaf!

No paprika or Old Bay seasoning. A pinch of celery salt? Sure. Mayonnaise? Only Hellman’s. White pepper, not black, and just a touch. Salt? A pinch of Fleur de Sel. And the secret weapon to bring out all the flavors: the tiniest squeeze of fresh lemon juice…not enough to give it a lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, I prefer those long Martin’s potato rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag or for extra decadence: lightly grilled with a little melted butter brushed on.

 

Just because you’ve got a garden full of fresh veggies, it doesn’t mean you have to gorge on nothing but salads! Sometimes, a refreshing cocktail is just what you need after a long day of yard work. With a ton of cucumbers crankin’ out of the garden right now, and with this seemingly never-ending heat wave going on in New England, this is the perfect Friday-get-the-weekend-started cocktail!

If you’ve got a juicer that’s sitting in the corner of the kitchen unused because the “juice kick” you were on became tiresome, here’s a great excuse to bring it out again.

 

4 fresh cucumbers, peeled and seeded
Small ice cubes
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons granulated organic cane sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup vodka (I like Tito’s)
1 oz. orange liqueur (I like Cointreau)

 

Peel and seed the cucumbers. Juice them to extract the liquid. If you don’t have a juicer, use a food processor. Coarsely chop them and then purée in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. You’ll need at least 3/4 of a cup of juice, so use more cukes if you don’t have enough. Set the cucumber juice aside.

To a large glass pitcher, add the mint leaves, sugar and lime juice. Muddle the ingredients so that the mint leaves release their oils. Add 3/4 cup (at least) of the cucumber juice. Add the vodka and Cointreau. Muddle again briefly.

Fill tall drinking glasses with ice cubes. Strain the cocktail into glasses. Garnish with a cucumber spear or mint.

GUAC AND ROLL

Posted: July 31, 2018 in Food, Recipes
Tags: , , ,

Hey! It’s National Avocado Day!

People are passionate about their guacamole, and there are thousands of recipes out there. If the avocados are nice and ripe, I think a good guac recipe needs to be simple. Grapefruit is my go-to citrus to add a spark of bright flavor.

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4 ripe avocados
1 grapefruit
1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

 

Slice the avocados lengthwise down the middle and all the way around, twist to get 2 halves, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh into a glass bowl. Mash it up a bit with a fork.

I always wash fruit before zesting. Using a microplane zester, zest a bit of the grapefruit skin and add to the bowl before cutting it into quarters. Squeeze the juice out of one of the quarters and add to the bowl.

The art of removing the flesh out of citrus without any of that nasty fibrous skin is called supreming.  Supreme as much of the flesh as you like, roughly chopping it, and add it to the bowl.

Add the chopped onion.

Tony Chachere’s (pronounced sak-a-rees) Creole Seasoning has some kick, some salt, and some spices. Add it to taste.

Mix the contents of the bowl well with a fork. Cover the bowl tightly to prevent oxidation, and like all guacamole, store it in the fridge and serve it as soon as possible.

In the past, when I reached for the smoker, it was always for a slab of meat: brisket, pork shoulder, ribs. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally smoke some fish. What have I been waiting for?

Brining and smoking fish, in this case a hunk of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, is really not difficult to do at all: you brine the fish in a simple salt, pepper and sugar solution for a few hours, let the hunk of fish dry, then throw it in a smoker for a couple of hours. It’s really that easy. This method is called hot smoking, not the cold smoking you often see described on packages of store-bought salmon. Cold smoking is a process that takes days and requires equipment that most homeowners don’t have, and don’t need.

About the fish: I’m not a fan of traditionally cooked or poached salmon. I like it raw or I like it smoked. I never buy Atlantic salmon or any other farm-raised salmon because of the way they raise them: in large pens out in the ocean, fed food pellets and antibiotics, over-crowded and diseased, polluting the waters around them with waste.

Wild-caught fish are just that: they eat their natural food sources. They are not crowded so they don’t need antibiotics. And you can tell the difference when you look at the beautiful bright orange flesh. Does the good stuff cost more? Of course. Worth every bit.

Though I try to make sure all the small bones have been removed from my fish, I like to keep the skin on the filet, because it helps hold it together in the smoker. I always keep the fish cold in the fridge until it is ready to be brined.

 

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For the brine:

1 gallon water
1 cup Kosher salt
1 cup organic raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a large pitcher made of glass or plastic and refrigerate until very cold.

When the brine is cold, remove the fish from the fridge and place it skin down in a glass or plastic container that will hold the filet without folding it over. Carefully pour the brine over the fish and make sure the fish is covered completely with the brine. If the fish filet starts to float, place a dish on it to push it down and then put the lid over the container. Place the container back in the fridge and brine for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. (I always go for less than more. I’d rather have less salty than too salty.)

Once the fish has been brined, remove it from the container and rinse it well under fresh water. Pat it dry with paper towels and place it where it will get air circulating all around it. I use a small rack that stands an inch over a sheet pan. If you leave the fish out at room temp, do it for no more than an hour. Otherwise, it can stay in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

As the fish dries, it will form a shiny coat on the surface called a pellicle. This will actually help the smoke molecules adhere to the fish.

Start up your smoker. I use a digital smoker that runs on electricity, so I pre-heat to 220 degrees. When the fish has dried, I place it in the middle of the smoker and then add hickory chips to the smoker. I smoke the fish for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature of the fish is about 140.

Once it is smoked, I let the fish cool to room temp before I wrap it tightly and place it in the fridge for storage. Eat it within a few days…that should not be a problem!

A while 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. (I brought in a copy of the First Edition’s “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)” featuring a very young Kenny Rogers. Very trippy.

We were also asked to contribute to the apps, so we brought waffle chips with clam dip. Clam dip is a classic, and it’s really easy to make. And the bowl was practically licked clean by our party-going friends!

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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 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 potato chips.

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Shrimp with an orange sauce is something you see on every Chinese restaurant menu. I didn’t have oranges, but wanted a citrus kick to my sweet and spicy sauce. I went with grapefruit and I never looked back!

Although I call this recipe “Asian shrimp,” I never buy my shrimp from Asia! Only wild-caught American shrimp will ever do. When you realize just how nasty Asian shrimp can be (farmed in over-crowded conditions, swimming in their own filth and fed chemical food pellets) you’ll never eat it again.

Green beans are now growing in my garden, so I used them, but feel free to substitute with broccoli, asparagus, or any other veggies you like.

Chili garlic sauce and hoisin sauce can be found in most supermarkets, in the international foods section.

As long as you use gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce, this dish is gluten-free!

 

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For the rice:

1 cup basmati rice (I use Texmati brown rice)
2 cups seafood stock (I use homemade shrimp and fish stock)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, finely chopped
splash of peanut oil

 

For the veggies:

1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and cut into 1/4′ pieces
1 teaspoon soy sauce
splash of peanut oil

 

For the shrimp:

2 dozen thawed, peeled and de-veined wild caught USA shrimp
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
splash of peanut oil

 

Making your own seafood stock is easy: just peel the shrimp you’re going to use in this recipe, and place the shells in a saucepan full of water. Let it boil until you’ve reduced it to 2 cups. Strain out the shells and discard them. Then use the stock to cook your rice, according to the package directions. Once the rice is cooked, toss in the chopped scallions, mix well, and set the rice aside.

Add peanut oil to a hot pan and saute the onions until translucent. Add the green beans and cook them until al dente. Add the soy sauce, stir, and then pour the contents of the pan into the rice. Mix well.

Using the same pan, add a little more peanut oil and sear the shrimp on both sides. Don’t overcook them! Push the shrimp to the sides of the pan so that a circle remains in the middle. Add the chili garlic sauce and hoysin sauce and stir them together, then blending in the shrimp until the shrimp are covered with the sauce. Add the grapefruit zest and juice and stir until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened just a bit.

Pour the contents of the pan into the rice mix and combine. Add more soy sauce to the rice, to taste.

Whenever I serve these tuna tacos to friends, I always get requests for the recipe. It requires a bit of setting up, but you can put it together right before serving to your guests…or yourself.

I use sushi grade tuna for this dish, which is easily found in small frozen “bricks” at Whole Foods or similar stores.

 

The marinade…
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil

The topping…

¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

Other Ingredients…

½ lb. sushi grade raw tuna, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
Tortilla chips
Finely chopped scallions

Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl, and place it in the fridge. Mix the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl. Chop the tuna into ¼-inch cubes, and marinate it in the soy/oil mix for just 10 minutes, then drain. (It will be really salty if you let marinate any longer.) Keep it cold!

Just before serving, take a tortilla chip, place 1 tablespoon of the tuna on top, top this with ½ teaspoon of the sour cream mixture, and then garnish with the finely chopped scallions.

Serve them immediately, and eat these quickly, before the tuna makes the tortilla soggy!

 

This is a huge hit wherever I bring it. I brought it to a dinner party last night to celebrate the 4th of July.

It’s easy to set up the parts at home, then put it together quickly at a party. If you know what a pulled pork sandwich North Carolina-style is all about (pulled pork on a bun with cole slaw right on top of the meat), then imagine taking away the bun and replacing with a deviled egg! It’s messy, it’s delicious, and everyone loves them.

I’ve tried this two ways now: with pulled pork and with chicken…and the big thumbs up goes to the pork. Of course, I will smoke a pork shoulder for 10 hours, pull the meat, and mix it with the barbecue sauce…all for this dish. If you don’t have a smoker, you can simply wrap a smaller piece of pork shoulder in aluminum foil (it’s good if it’s fatty), and bake it in the oven at 250 degrees for a few hours until the meat is juicy and falls apart.

Be sure to make a lot of these…they’ll go faster than the hard-boiled eggs in “Cool Hand Luke!”

 

 

 

For the BBQ sauce:
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
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Let it cool to room temperature and then store it in the fridge. It will be good for several weeks.

 

For the cole slaw:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
2 cups finely shredded cabbage

Combine all the cole slaw ingredients in a bowl, mixing well, and place it in the fridge. Making the cole slaw a day ahead of time is even better.

Always great to have a pretty helper!

 

 

For the deviled eggs:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard (I use Gulden’s)

 

Here’s my tip for perfectly hard-boiled eggs every time: place the eggs in a pot, cover them with cold water, and turn the heat on high. Just before the water starts to boil, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Perfect hard-boiled eggs every time! Once cooked, keep the eggs in the fridge.

Here’s another tip: the easiest peeling eggs are older eggs! No…that doesn’t mean you let your eggs sit out on the front porch for a week. What that means is: but them from your supermarket rather than the farm stand down the road. Super-fresh eggs still have a membrane attached to the shell that makes them difficult to peel. The membrane detaches in slightly older eggs, making them easier to peel.

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mustard. Mix it well and keep it in the fridge.

 

To assemble, take a teaspoon of the mayo/mustard/yolk mixture and place it in the cavity of one of the egg halves. Place a lump of pulled pork on top (I like it warm, to counter the cold of the mayo and cole slaw.) Then place a teaspoon of the cole slaw on top of the chicken.