Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of many gluten-free desserts or snacks, because they claim to be healthy by avoiding wheat, then compensate for the lack of flavor and texture by overloading with bad fats, salt and sugar. These brownies, which have more of a cake texture than a brownie, are the exception.

 

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9 oz. ground hazelnuts
5 1/2 oz. (2/3 cup) sugar
8 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 oz. cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder

 

If you’re using whole hazelnuts, pour them into the food processor and grind them into a powder. Pour the ground hazelnuts into a separate bowl.

Back in the food processor bowl, add the sugar and butter and pulse until combined.  Crack the eggs in a separate bowl, and add them slowly to the sugar and butter, pulsing to mix in between each addition.

Pour the ground hazelnuts into the mixture a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add the cocoa powder, straining  through a sieve to keep out lumps, and pulse again. Add the baking powder and pulse again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give it all one last mix.

Pour the batter into a buttered pan and cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Use a deeper pan so that the brownies don’t overflow as they rise while baking.

 

 

I was having dinner the other night 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.

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!

 

When we’re grilling, we always think of beef. But there’s no tastier way to prepare lamb than on the grill! Many people are turned off by lamb because somewhere in their past, they had a horribly overcooked piece of meat that ruined it for them. Don’t be sheepish! Try lamb again!

If you think lamb is too “gamey,” buy American lamb over New Zealand or Australian lamb. Although the animals are mostly pasture-raised, most American lamb is larger and grain finished, which results in a milder flavor. Unfortunately, like with non grass-fed American beef, this also results in a larger, fattier animal, and a less healthy cut of meat.

I prefer 100% grass-fed lamb, and most of it comes from New Zealand. Having been to the country, I can tell you that the quality is unmatched and the grasslands of New Zealand are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. New Zealand lamb is smaller and is slaughtered at a younger age than American lamb, making it very tender. In New Zealand, as well as many other countries, only an animal under 12 months of age and without incisors can be called “lamb.” No such labeling is required in the United States.

I love the baby lamb chops that look like miniature porterhouse steaks. You can find them in any supermarket. Here’s an easy recipe that I served at a party in my home for 40 people, many of whom claimed they didn’t like lamb or never had it before. By the end of dinner, the chops were gone!

 

lamb LTL

 

8 small lamb chops
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, through a garlic press
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Place the lamb meat in a plastic bag. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and pour it over the lamb. Seal the bag and squish it around so that the marinade reaches every part of the chops. I leave it at room temp if marinating for a few hours…or in the fridge if overnight.

Before grilling, take the lamb out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature.

Pre-heat the barbecue grill. Grill the lamb until it’s done. That means cooked no more than medium. Don’t cook it to death! If you can’t get to a grill, place the lamb chops in a hot oven-proof pan (cast iron is always best) and sear it on all sides. Then place the pan in a 350-degree oven to cook all the way through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, 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, saute 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. (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 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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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 them to a platter and let them cool slightly.

Just before serving, sprinkle the tomatoes with Fleur de Sel, and garnish if you like, with chopped parsley leaves, mint leaves, or basil. (Bacon bits sound pretty good, too!)

 

Tomatoes after

Tomatoes after!

I really love the deep flavor of soy sauce and the sweetness of hoisin on poultry. Peking duck is the best example of this, but since I live in Rhode Island, I don’t get a chance to jump in the car and drive to Chinatown in Boston or New York at the drop of a hat. I had to come up with a plan B…and a good plan B!

I found it while looking through an old Chinese cookbook I had bought many years ago. Written by legendary NY Times food critic Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee, “The Chinese Cookbook” has become my bible for all of my Asian dishes.

I use chicken instead of duck. It’s cheaper, easier to find, and I can easily buy a whole pasture-raised chicken from local farms here in Rhode Island. But it is just as delicious.

As long as you use gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce (La Choy and Kikkoman make them and they’re found in just about any supermarket), this recipe is gluten-free.

 

Cantonese chicken

 

1 whole chicken, about 6 lbs., or 2 smaller chickens (pictured)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

 

Remove all the giblets from the chicken and discard. Rub the soy sauce first all over the chicken. (The chicken will absorb the flavors better if you do it before you rub the bird with the oil.) Then rub the peanut oil all over the chicken.

Combine the Chinese five spice, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Season the entire chicken, including inside the cavity, with this mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the chicken in a pan lined with aluminum foil (cleanup will be easier) and bake.

Meanwhile, combine the hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. When the chicken is about 15 minutes away from being done, brush it with the hoisin/sesame oil mixture. Cook it another 15 minutes until the chicken has a nice dark glaze. Don’t let it burn!

Let it rest about 15 minutes before carving.

 

I love pastrami. I love ribs. So why can’t the two get along? (Using my best announcer voice): Well now they can!!

I’ve seen a few recipes that use pastrami ingredients on foods other than pastrami and I thought it could work with pork ribs as well. I was right. And for these ribs, you don’t need a smoker. They bake in the oven, then get finished under a broiler for that tasty char that you always look for in a grilled rib.

There’s a 2-step process to making these ribs. First, you combine the rub ingredients and let the ribs hang out in the fridge overnight. Then you bake them and broil them the next day, brushing a special sauce on them.

I prefer St. Louis-style ribs because they cook more evenly and have lots of meat. I prefer a heritage breed like Berkshire pork (also known as kurobuta) because of it has fantastic flavor, “good” fat, and is humanely raised.

Time to get ribbin’…

 

1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 racks St. Louis-style pork spare ribs (about 5 lbs.), preferably Berkshire pork

To make the rub, combine the black pepper, coriander, brown sugar, mustard powder, paprika and cayenne in a bowl. Mix well. To grind larger amounts of pepper and other spices, I use a small coffee grinder that I keep just for spices. It does the job quickly and easily.

My spice grinder.

 

Cut the racks of ribs into halves, removing the skin on the back of the ribs that can make it tough. Brush both sides of the ribs with the white vinegar, and then season with the salt. Pat the ribs with the spice rub, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for at least an hour. Overnight is better.

Vinegar, salt and then the spice rub.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 325. Transfer the ribs to a large roasting pan, or you can use the rimmed baking sheet. Place the ribs fatty side up, and add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Cover the ribs with aluminum foil and bake them for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the ribs from the oven and let them sit at room temperature, still covered by the foil, for about 30 minutes.

Out of the oven and ready to be brushed with sauce.

 

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon soy sauce

In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey and soy sauce. If the honey’s very thick, I place the glass jar (no lid) in the microwave for a few seconds to make it flow better. (Don’t do this if it’s in a plastic container, and don’t microwave for too long–honey will foam up and make a big mess!)

Pre-heat a broiler.

 

Brushing the ribs with the sauce.

 

Take the foil off the ribs and brush them with the sauce. Then place the ribs under the broiler until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Slice into individual ribs or devour a slab at a time!

Charred and delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Before you can have great shrimp cocktail, you have to do 2 things: buy the right shrimp and cook the shrimp the right way. The right shrimp is nothing less than wild-caught American shrimp. If you’re buying shrimp from Asia, your supporting a system that uses slave labor, where shrimp are fed chemical pellets and swim in feces. If it doesn’t say wild-caught American shrimp on the package or at your local seafood store, it’s crap. Give your store owner hell for selling it.

Cooking shrimp the right way is something I learned living in the South. My wonderful friends and neighbors taught me many things about food, and the right way to cook shrimp is near the top of the list.

Shrimp was never meant to be cooked to death. It doesn’t matter if you start with fresh shrimp, store-bought shrimp, or even frozen shrimp…the same rules apply: 1) Season your water. 2) Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it get happy for 10 minutes. 3) Drop in the shrimp and raise the heat. 4) Remove the shrimp AS SOON AS the water returns to a boil.

The seasoning for the water, commonly called shrimp boil, makes or breaks the flavor of your shrimp. For years, I used Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil in a bag. And it was good. But at some point, I realized I had to get serious and make my own boil.

2 quarts water
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, squeezed, then drop the lemon in
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon dry thyme

Combine all the ingredients in a 4–6 quart pot. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and pour in your shrimp. (I prefer unpeeled.) Stir well, bring the heat back up to high, and remove the shrimp AS SOON AS it returns to a boil! The shrimp are cooked! Done!

Strain the shrimp and place them in a bowl with crushed ice on the bottom. Add more crushed ice on top of the shrimp, and place the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

 

Freshly shucked oysters and clams, or in this case, beautiful boiled wild-caught American shrimp, all call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix makes the cocktail sauce easy to scoop even when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer until next time.

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2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

It’s National Bacon Lover’s Day!

 

And who doesn’t love bacon? …Especially when you can slather it on anything with this fabulous aioli!

Don’t let the innocent photo fool you. This stuff is addictive, thanks to the addition of bacon and bacon fat! And the food processor makes this aioli light as a cloud. Spread it on burgers. Use it on a BLT. Goes great with tuna. Or just get some chips and use it as a dip. Inhale!

 

avocado

 

3 avocados, seed removed and scooped out of their skins
6 strips of bacon, fried crisp, chopped and cooled…bacon fat reserved
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, room temperature
1 clove garlic
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
Freshly grated black pepper

In a food processor, blend the avocados, bacon pieces, lemon juice and zest, eggs, and garlic. With the processor still running, add the bacon fat slowly, then add the olive oil. Add a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

You can substitute vegetable oil for the olive oil if you feel it’s too strong. But this is not for the weak!

Note: Yes, this baby uses raw eggs. If you’re queasy about that, there are raw egg substitutes in many supermarkets. I don’t use raw eggs often, but I do here…and in a really good Caesar salad.