Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

I know, you’re saying you can just buy gluten-free bread crumbs. Like this stuff here…

The problem with this is that it’s all rice, made into little nuggets that’ll crack your tooth. Oh, and they taste bad, too. I never bought pre-made regular bread crumbs, so when I had to start cooking gluten-free for my wife, I wanted something better than stale breadcrumbs from a can.

I buy loaves of Udi’s Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread and keep them in the freezer. When I need breadcrumbs, I take some of the bread out of the package and toast it in my toaster oven until golden brown. I crumble the bread into my food processor, and whizz it around until I’ve got the breadcrumb consistency I like. That’s it.

One taste of these breadcrumbs–that come from actual bread–and you’ll never go back.

If I want Italian flavored breadcrumbs, I mix them with parsley, oregano, basil, granulated garlic, granulated onion, salt and pepper. I also add a small amount of all-purpose flour (Cup4Cup GF flour) to lighten up the mix.

I use these GF breadcrumbs on everything: to coat chicken before frying for chicken parmigiana, to coat pork chops before roasting in the oven, to use in stuffed clams–anywhere I would use normal breadcrumbs. And I have to say, no one can tell the difference.

Fast food is a relative term.
What we Americans think of as fast food is not what, say, the Italians think of as fast food. We think of drive-thru burger joints serving greasy, salty and fatty food. Swallow a burger, pop a Crestor. The Italians think fast food is something that simply doesn’t take all day to cook! If you can use the freshest of ingredients, and serve it in the time it takes to sip a half a bottle of wine while chatting with a friend, it’s fast food Italian-style.
Years ago, when my wife and I were visiting the island of Capri in Italy, one of the dishes we enjoyed was an incredibly simple pasta and tomato dish called spaghetti sciue-sciue (pronounced “shwee-shwee.”) We were told that sciue-sciue was loosely translated as “quick-quick,” although a check on the web said that it also translates to “improvisation” in Italian. And though quick it was (that is, by Italian standards), it was one of the most memorable dishes we had on our trip. It could be because of our surroundings: the famous Faraglioni rocks all around us at a small seaside restaurant called Da Luigi ai Faraglioni. We took the small shuttle boat from Marina Piccola, which made its way through those stacks jutting out of the Bay of Naples, and landed at this historic restaurant, built in 1936. People come here not only to dine, but to spend the day sunbathing and swimming. (Check out the amazing photos here. http://www.capri.com/en/c/da-luigi-ai-faraglioni)
So the reason Da Luigi’s sciue-sciue was so amazing certainly was, in part, the location…but it was also very much due to the use of the freshest and best possible ingredients…and they didn’t mess around with them too much.
The best time to make this dish is when tomatoes are at their absolute best in your area. But if you can get your hands on some beautiful cherry tomatoes off-season (they seem to be tastier than larger tomatoes in the winter months), it’s worth having a go at it as well.

 

 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian dried peppers, finely chopped
¼ cup white wine
8 to 10 chopped plum or cherry tomatoes (as ripe as possible)
12 to 15 torn fresh basil leaves
½ stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (about 12 oz.)
1 lb. of spaghetti, or better yet, bucatini (Using GF pasta will keep this whole dish gluten-free)
Sea salt
Fleur de Sel (optional)
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss the pasta in.
Almost burn—as in “heavily caramelize”—the tomato paste in a large pan with the olive oil, salt, and the dried peppers. Add the white wine to de-glaze, and simmer until reduced by half.
Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer on medium heat until they start to break apart. Hand tear the mozzarella ball into shreds and add to the sauce, stirring gently. Add the basil.
Add the butter, gently stirring until it melts.
When the pasta is slightly firmer than al dente, drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce.
Serve immediately, finishing with a little Fleur de Sel.

 

Finito!

I’m addicted to garlic salt. Garlic salt made by the Essex Garden Club in Essex, CT. It’s not available on-line. In fact, there are only 2 places I know you can get it. One is the annual “May Market,” where worshippers of this salt, like me, can replenish their pantry. This year, the date of the May Market  is May 13th, from 9AM to 2PM. (www.essexgardenclubct.org)

If I miss the May Market, my only other chance is to go to a local gift shop called Gracie’s Corner, on the main drag in Essex. But they’ve got a limited supply, so I beg my Essex friends to go there and buy 6 jars at a time for me. I used to be able to have them shipped directly from the shop, but a few years ago they told me they don’t ship anymore. I was heartbroken.

 

This should last me a couple of weeks!

What makes the Essex Garden Club garlic salt so amazing is that you actually see pieces of garlic and herbs in it. I’m not sure what they do to it and how they do it, but it’s so damn good, I’ve got to put it on everything. Case in point: garlic salt chicken thighs!

The thighs can take the high heat without drying out because they’ve got more fat than other cuts. The skin gets so crispy, you’d think it has breadcrumbs on it, but it’s simply a glorious garlic salt crust!

 

3 lbs. chicken thighs
olive oil
2 tablespoons Essex Garden Club garlic salt
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon pepper

 

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the garlic salt, onion, oregano, parsley, and pepper in a bowl.

Rub the thighs with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Season both sides with the garlic salt mixture.

 

Cook the thighs for about 20–25 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.

 

 

When I was a kid, no visit to a Chinese restaurant was complete without an order of those sweet, greasy and radioactive red spare ribs. They came in that foil-lined bag that barely kept them warm until my dad got us home to devour them along with the other classics: fried dumplings, and won ton soup with fried won tons on the side. I still see those ribs on menus even today, and despite my cravings, I just don’t eat fire-engine-red-dyed food anymore.

Imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for those classic spare ribs in a food magazine. I figured I’d just make them without the food coloring. It totally worked.

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe exactly as written, and this was no exception. For one thing, it called for dry sherry. I didn’t have it so, I used dry marsala wine. I didn’t even have the pork ribs, so I substituted a beautiful slab of grass-fed beef flap. It was awesome.

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry marsala wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or through a press
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 lbs. beef flap (skirt steak or hanger steak works, too)

 

To make the marinade, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, madeira, garlic, sugar and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Mix well.

Trim the excess fat and silver skin off the beef flap, and if it’s thick, slice it lengthwise to make a thinner piece of meat about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.

Place the meat in the marinade, making sure it gets well coated on all sides. Marinate the meat at room temperature for about 30 minutes. If you have a thicker cut of meat, you can marinate it longer.

Drain and discard the marinade.

Heat a cast iron pan and add a little lard or oil. Place the beef flap pieces in the pan, searing well on one side before flipping over to the other. If the meat is thin, you can cook it to a medium-rare right there on the stove top. You might need to finish the beef in a 350-degree oven if you’re using a thicker cut.

 

To make the Chinese ribs with this marinade: simply place the ribs and the marinade in a Ziploc bag at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the ribs on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. Save the marinade…and baste the ribs with it every 30 minutes, turning the ribs over as you do so. Cook until the ribs are done, about 2 hours.

 

 

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 the 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 20 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
Placing the spices in one of these means you won't be picking them out later. Worth the investment!

Placing the spices in one of these means you won’t be picking them out later. Worth the investment!

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 at least 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, 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 keeps the cocktail sauce from freezing solid 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.

image

 

 

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.

Here in New England, the best brand of chicken salad you can buy is called Willow Tree. It’s been here for over 50 years, and people crave it like crack. But I don’t like anything whose ingredients are a well-kept secret, so my task was to make something that was a reasonable Willow Tree facsimile. I got close…real close! As always, I use pastured chicken and organic veggies when possible. I found that boiling the chicken breasts in stock instead of water keeps the meat more flavorful.

image

 

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 pints salt-free chicken stock (I use home-made)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I live on Hellman’s)
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil again, then simmer uncovered for about 7 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid, and let the breasts sit in the pot for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the breasts to a cutting board and allow them to cool. Save the chicken stock for another use, like soup. (See below.)

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, celery, onion, brown sugar, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.

When the chicken has cooled, shred the breast meat into bite-sized pieces and then transfer it into the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill before serving.

I love my chicken salad on a Martin’s Long Roll.

 

BONUS: I don’t waste the chicken stock left over in the pot. I chop some carrots, celery and onion and throw it in there. I reserve some of the chicken breast meat–just a bit–and throw it in there, too. I add a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of dried Bouquet Garni. I bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are al dente. Pasta or potatoes optional.

Makes an awesome chicken soup!

 

 

When I can’t get to Chinatown in Boston or New York, I cook my version of a recipe I discovered many years ago in “The Chinese Cookbook,” a wonderful source of information by former NY Times food critic Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee. Whenever possible, I use a whole pasture-raised chicken.

This recipe can be made gluten-free by using GF hoisin and soy sauce, available in most supermarkets.

 

Cantonese chicken

 

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

 

Remove all the giblets from chicken. Rub the soy sauce all over the chicken. 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.

 

KONA BEEF RIBS

Posted: March 19, 2017 in beef, Food, Recipes
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m usually a pork rib guy. But recently, I bought a nice slab of grass-fed beef ribs from one of my latest favorite suppliers of beef, Slanker’s Grass-Fed Beef. (www.texasgrassfedbeef.com) They sell grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and more…with fair pricing and free shipping.

My coffee rub from an earlier blog has become my go-to way to cook a steak. So I figured, how bad could it be on beef ribs?

Any coffee will do for this rub…pick your favorite. But I had a stash of my personal favorite, Kona, at home, and used that.

ribs3

 

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground Kona coffee
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
5 lbs. grass-fed beef ribs
Let the rubbed ribs sit for 30 minutes.

Let the rubbed ribs sit for 30 minutes.

 

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, coffee, salt, garlic, onion, and cocoa. Mix well.

Remove the skin on the underside of the ribs. I do this by sliding a knife under a corner of the skin, exposing just enough of a tab that I can grab onto. The meat can be slippery, so pulling the skin off with a folded piece of paper towel in your hands gives a better grip.

Cut the ribs into 2-rib portions. Place all the rib pieces on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Generously rub the coffee rub into all sides of the rib pieces, turning them meat-side-up, and let them sit on the baking sheet at room temperature for about a half hour, while you warm the oven up to 350 degrees.

Place the sheet pan of ribs in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the oven, and lower the heat to 250. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil, 2 sections per packet, and place them back on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet back in the oven and cook them for 4 more hours.

Remove the ribs from the oven and take them out of the foil, placing them back on the baking sheet and back into the 250-degree oven for 30 more minutes.

ribs2

 

LASAGNA, MY WAY

Posted: March 17, 2017 in Food, Italian, pasta, Recipes
Tags: , , , ,

As a teenager growing up on Long Island, I worked long hours at a local Italian restaurant called Pizza City East in Plainview. (The original Pizza City was in Ozone Park, Queens.) Though the pay sucked, I made some important friendships that have lasted to this day. I also learned many Italian cooking basics: how to open clams for red and white clam sauce, the secrets of great pizza dough, the art of a perfect espresso, and how to make massive quantities of baked ziti.

Although the basic ingredients of baked ziti are the same as lasagna, baked ziti is wetter, using more cheese and sauce. So when I started making lasagna, I followed this same path.

It was only recently that I decided to take the more classic Italian approach and make a “drier” lasagna. Once I did, I realized I had done it wrong all this time!

My lasagna consists of 2 sauces and 4 cheeses, using pasta that is boiled much firmer than al dente. I really don’t like the flavor or texture of no-boil pasta sheets, so I never use them.

This lasagna can be gluten-free (and just as delicious) when you use the alternatives listed in the recipe.
lasagna

 

Meat Sauce…
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil for sautéing

 

Heat a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until translucent. I finely chop the carrots by peeling them and then chopping up the peeled pieces, so that they almost melt into the sauce. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beef and cook until it browns. Add the parsley, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and mix well.

Empty the can of tomatoes into a blender and blend until smooth. Add this to the pan and mix well.

Cook the meat sauce for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

 

Bechamel sauce…
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup flour to make it gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups 2% milk

 

Bechamel is a basic white sauce. It adds a wonderful creaminess to lasagna.

Melt the butter in a saucepan under medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until you’ve combined the butter and flour and have a light roux.

Add the milk, and keep whisking, making sure you don’t get any lumps in the sauce. Season with the salt and pepper.

Keep whisking until the sauce thickens. Once it does, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

 

12 oz. lasagna pasta sheets (I use Garofalo GF pasta to keep things gluten-free)
4 slices provolone cheese (about 4 oz.)
ricotta cheese (about 4 oz.)
mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (about 4 oz.)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the lasagna sheets in a pot of salty boiling water until very firm…firmer than al dente. Drain the pasta and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process. The pasta will want to stick to itself, so work quickly.

Lay a thin layer of the meat sauce at the bottom of the lasagna pan, which will keep the lasagna from sticking. Then start your layers: a layer of pasta, a thin layer of the Béchamel sauce, the 4 slices of Provolone, a layer of pasta, a layer of the meat sauce, small teaspoon-sized dollops of the ricotta, another layer of pasta (press down occasionally to remove air bubbles), another thin layer of Béchamel, the Parmigiano Reggiano, more pasta, more meat sauce, etc….

Make it as thick as you like. I like to cover the final layer of pasta with the meat sauce and then finish the dish with the mozzarella, sprinkling a touch of oregano on top.

Place the lasagna pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Shut the oven off, but leave the pan in for another 10 minutes, then serve.

Basic lasagna on the left, gluten-free on the right. I couldn't find GF lasagna sheets, so I used bundles of spaghetti! It worked really well!

Basic lasagna on the left, gluten-free on the right. I couldn’t find GF lasagna sheets, so I used bundles of spaghetti! It worked really well!

 

 

Despite that corned beef is not an authentic Irish dish, it seems that everyone thinks they should eat it on St. Patrick’s Day. The phrase “corned beef” was actually coined by the British, and although the Irish were known for their corned beef throughout Europe in the 17th century, beef was far too expensive for the Irish themselves to eat and all of it was exported to other countries. Owning a cow in Ireland was a sign of wealth, and the Irish used theirs for dairy products, not beef.

The Irish ate pork, and a lot of it, because it was cheap to raise pigs, and they traditionally prepared something like Canadian bacon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

In the 1900’s, when the Irish came to America, both beef and salt were more affordable, and the Irish, who lived in poor, tight-knit communities, often next to Jewish communities, bought much of their beef from Kosher butchers. And so many of the Irish learned how to corn their beef using Jewish techniques, but added cabbage and potatoes to the mix.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef. But now that you know it’s not Irish anyway, that’s OK! Doing it yourself is not difficult, and you get a better quality product than that nasty slab from the supermarket that’s full of chemicals and preservatives.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used in England before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed with more spices and smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

 

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine the coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.