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My dog, Fellow, is so used to my crazy work schedule, that he really gets unhappy if I miss his 4AM and 4PM feeding times. That creates a problem on weekends, when I’d like to get a little extra sleep…”little” being the operative word, since he lets me “push it” to about 5:30AM before he really starts to whine.

This morning, when we set the clocks back an hour, that meant I got up at 4:30 instead of 5:30. There was no way I could fall back asleep, so I did the next best thing: I cooked.

Making koldūnai is a labor of love…one that takes time. And I had that this morning…in spades!

 

 

I think I spent half of my childhood in the kitchen, watching my Mom and grandmother make koldūnai (kohl-doo-nayh), the Lithuanian version of a pierogi, by hand at lightning speed. They would roll a simple dough into a log about 1″ in diameter, then cut it into 1″ pieces, twirling each piece between their fingers to make a flat pancake, filling each with a small spoonful of meat or mushrooms, then fold it over, crimping the edges to make a crescent-shaped dumpling. It blew my mind that they could crank out over a hundred of these little masterpieces in no time, placing them on a cookie sheet and freezing them until it was time to cook.

 

 

Always on the lookout to make my job easier, I discovered a new tool a couple of years ago: a device that makes faster work of koldūnai production, though they do come out much smaller. It’s a ravioli maker, and the Lithuanian purists I chatted with on social media didn’t like it. I was willing to give it a try if it meant that I could save myself a lot of time.

 

 

Simply roll out a sheet of dough on top of it.

 

 

Add a spoon of filling (in this case, ground beef) in each area.

 

 

Then roll out another sheet of dough on top of that and press down with a rolling pin.

 

Voila! Out pop 37 mini-koldūnai at once!

 

I first tried it with gluten-free dough, with limited success. The dough needs to have elasticity for the device to work properly and that’s something that is sorely lacking in any gluten-free dough I’ve made over the years. Gluten-free dough tends to dry out quickly and simply break rather than bend. But, that said, I managed to make a decent amount of them so that my wife, who maintains a gluten-free diet, could enjoy them, too.

 

Always great to have a helper in the kitchen!

 

One of the main reasons why I prefer Lithuanian koldūnai over Polish pierogis is the filling. For me, standard pierogi fillings like potatoes, cheese, and sauerkraut just don’t cut it. My Mom would mix ground beef with chopped onions sautéed in butter, a couple of eggs, and milk crackers soaked in milk. She’d add salt and pepper, then spoon that mixture into her koldūnai.

The other stuffing, usually reserved for special holidays like Christmas Eve and Easter, was made from mushrooms. Italy may lay claim to the porcini, but the fact of the matter is, Lithuania is porcini heaven. And when they’re dried and reconstituted, their incredible flavor is so intense, you don’t need many of them to flavor a large amount of regular button mushrooms. We’d get our dried boletes from relatives in Lithuania every year. Mom would place a handful in some boiling water and let them steep until they swelled up and could easily be chopped and added to the other mushrooms. She’d then pour the mushroom liquid into the pan as well, not wasting a bit of that magical porcini flavor. The mushrooms were simply sautéed in butter, cooled, then used to fill the koldūnai.

 

I found that my Mom’s log method was too much work. I roll the dough out into a sheet with a rolling pin, then cut circles with a glass. Yes, that’s mac-and-cheese in the forefront.

 

A few years ago, I decided it was time to try my hand at making koldūnai. As I recall, my Mom simply mixed water with flour to make the dough, kneaded it into a log, and off she went. I decided to go with the rolling pin and glass cutting method in addition to the ravioli maker, because I wanted to compare the classic crescent-shaped koldūnai with the newer mini’s.

The biggest challenges I had with making my own koldūnai was my own clumsiness and lack of experience. Once I got the hang of it, things moved along steadily, and it didn’t take long for me to make a decent batch–not all perfect, but not bad for a first try.

 

The rolling pin method.

 

This time around, I made four kinds of koldūnai: traditional (ground beef as well as mushroom) and non-traditional (mac & cheese and pulled pork.)  Patty’s Pierogis, a restaurant in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, and featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” is where my daughter first had mac & cheese pierogis. She was instantly hooked and begs for them every year.

Here’s my beef recipe…

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 pat of butter
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free)

I make my gluten-free breadcrumbs with Udi’s frozen GF bread that I toast, then chop in a food processor. I think it tastes better than store-bought GF breadcrumbs in a can, and it tastes as good as regular breadcrumbs.

Finely chop the onion and sauté it in the butter until translucent. Let it cool, then add it to 1 lb. of thawed ground beef. Add the egg and the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and keep the meat in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

 

Two pots of boiling salted water: one for the meat-filled koldūnai, and one for the mac-and-cheese filled koldūnai.

Two pots of boiling salted water: one for the meat-filled koldūnai, and one for the mac-and-cheese filled koldūnai.

 

In my childhood home, you cannot possibly serve koldūnai without sour cream on the side and without spirgučiai (spir-guh-chay), chopped and fried bacon and onions that are sprinkled on top.

1 lb. bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped

In a large pan, fry the chopped bacon until it’s almost crisp. Never drain the fat! Add the chopped onions and cook until they are soft. Set aside.  (My Mom always kept a stash of spirgučiai in a container in the fridge, and sprinkled them on anything and everything.)

 

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Making the dough is simple.

2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free or regular)
1 cup water

I don’t use salt in the dough because I boil the koldūnai in salted water later.

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, mixing with your hands. Keep adding flour in small amounts until the dough isn’t wet and sticky. When it forms a nice ball, remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured surface and knead it a bit more. Cut the ball into quarters, and work with these smaller pieces of dough.

If you’re using the ravioli maker method, each quarter will  make one sheet of dough for the top or bottom of the ravioli maker. If making them by hand, each sheet will give you about 8 crescent-shaped koldūnai.

For the rolling-pin method, roll each quarter out until the dough is about 1/8″ thick. Cut circles out of the dough using a cookie cutter, rocks glass, or whatever else you have handy. Add about a teaspoonful of filling in the center of the dough, then fold the edges over and pinch them with your fingers. Flip it over and pinch again, making sure none of the filling seeps out. A tight edge means the koldūnai won’t break open when you put them in boiling water.

 

Who knew a rocks glass had more uses than just to hold a great Manhattan?

 

Some stuffed with mac and cheese!

 

I recently discovered these “pierogi makers.” You lay the dough in them, add your filling, and then close them. They automatically crimp the edges for you.

 

I always double-check the crimped edges, because your koldūnai will fall apart in the boiling water if you don’t seal them well!

 

Place the koldūnai on a sheet pan dusted with flour, and when you’re done, place the sheet pan in the freezer.

 

Ready for the freezer!

 

Sometimes the chef gets punchy after making koldūnai all day long!

 

Get a large pot of salted water boiling. Drop the koldūnai in gently, being careful not to overcrowd them. If the dough is thin, the koldūnai will be ready when they float up to the surface. A thicker dough will need longer cooking. The best way to know if they’re done is by taking one out, cutting it open and having a look (and taste!)

When plating, sprinkle generously with spirgučiai, and serve with sour cream on the side.

 

 

My conclusion: When all is said and done, the old ways are still the best. Although the ravioli maker did a good job, in many ways it was just as time-consuming. And the finished mini-raviolis did not have the dough-to-filling ratio that I find so satisfying with classically made koldūnai. We sampled both side-by-side, and there really was a difference. I’m sticking with the classic methods for now! Mom will be proud.

 

The hand-painted Christmas trees in the photos are from our friend, Don Cadoret, an artist here in Tiverton, RI. Check out all of his work at: http://www.doncadoret.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ago, at Le Saint-Amour, a great restaurant in Quebec City, the dish I ordered had these small strange-looking root vegetables sitting next to my roasted duck entrée. They resembled tiny twisted parsnips…or caterpillars! I needed to know what these things were, and so I asked my French waiter, who came back with a piece of paper that had the word “crosne” written on it. He said: “I don’t know how they say it in English.”
Back at the hotel room, I went right to the laptop and started a search online and discovered that crosnes (pronounced crones) are also known as Chinese artichokes, and although they are somewhat common in European gardens, they’re really difficult to find in the states.
The leaves look like mint, but don't have a fragrance.

The leaves look like mint, but don’t have a fragrance.

 

The plant is a relative of mint (though the leaves have no aroma), a perennial, is easy to grow, spreads on its own, and has those small, convoluted and delicious root clumps (known as tubers to gardeners.) So what’s not to like? Well, apparently, it’s not the gardeners that don’t want to deal with them…it’s the chefs! The tubers are very small and need a little extra effort to make sure they’re washed clean before cooking. They don’t need to be peeled (now that would be a pain) but to many chefs, even the washing is too much of a hassle.
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As a Master Gardener and food nerd, I found all of this pretty interesting so I searched for sources to buy crosnes plants. It took a while (most growers were in Europe or Great Britain), but I finally found a source in Oregon that sold the plants and I bought a few for my home garden.
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Much like mint, crosnes are pretty hardy and are tough to remove once well established, so they need to be planted in an area where you don’t mind if they take over. The tubers are ready to harvest October through November, and as long as I leave some in the ground over the winter, the crosnes will be back again the next year. Seems pretty low-maintenance for such a delicious treat!

 

 

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As for preparation, a light saute in olive oil and butter (or lard), and a little salt and pepper, is all they need. They also go well with a deep, rich demi glace reduction like I had with my duck at Le Saint-Amour.

Cooler fall weather always gets us craving for comfort foods, and this is one we discovered on a trip to Spain in 2014. Croquettes are the Spanish equivalent of chicken nuggets: they’re found on every kids’ menu…and my daughter ordered them just about everywhere we went! So it’s no surprise that I “got the order” to make a batch of croquettes at home!

You can make these days ahead of time and then freeze them, re-heating them whenever you have guests. These are way better than your average snacks when that football game is on!

 

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I found a great recipe for croquettes in Saveur magazine, and decided to try it out. I was a bit clumsy at making them at first–they do need a bit of finesse–but by the end of the batch, I got the hang of it. And to make them gluten-free, I simply substituted GF flour and breadcrumbs for the all-purpose flour and Panko. (The best tasting GF breadcrumbs are the ones you make yourself. Buy a loaf of sliced gluten-free bread, like Udi’s, and toast it in your toaster oven. Crumble the slices into a food processor, processing them until the breadcrumbs are the size you like.)

 

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2 lbs. raw potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup)
2 eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
avocado oil for frying

 

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Peel the potatoes, cutting them into 1″ cubes. Boil them in salted water until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot the potatoes were in, then add the onions and sauté them until they’re translucent. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Add more cream, if needed, but be careful not to make it mushy.

Add the cheese and mix until it has melted in. Add the ham and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the contents of the pot into a metal bowl and place it in the freezer to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until the mashed potato mix is cold, but not frozen.

Line up three bowls: all-purpose flour (or GF flour) in the first bowl, eggs (scrambled) in the second bowl, Panko (or GF breadcrumbs) in the third.

Remove the mashed potato mix from the freezer, and with floured hands, grab enough to gently roll a small meatball in your hands. (I’ve found that starting with a round shape makes it easier to work with.)

Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, then drop in the Panko and roll again. With the ball in your hand, gently squeeze into a tubular shape, and then place it on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Continue with the rest of the potato mixture. (You may need to add another scrambled egg or two if you run out.)

Once you’ve rolled all the croquettes, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a pan with 2″ of oil to 350 degrees. Remove the croquettes from the freezer, and working in small batches, fry them until golden brown. Place them on paper towels, and quickly season lightly with salt while hot.

 

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The croquettes freeze really well, so this batch goes a long way. Once they’ve been fried, let them cool completely to room temp. Place them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. When it’s time to cook them, let them thaw for about 15 minutes, then place them in a pre-heated 325 degree oven and cook for 15 minutes.

 

I’ve been experimenting with my coffee rub, one that combines coffee with cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, garlic and onion. I’ve tried it on various cuts of beef, on chicken, and pork…and it works well on everything!

 

A Berkshire pork belly, cured for several weeks, then rinsed.

 

I took some of the rub and cured a beautiful Berkshire pork belly with it, to make bacon. I simply scored the fat side of the belly, then massaged both sides of the belly with the rub, and placed it in a container in the fridge for several weeks. I flipped it over every few days to allow both sides of the belly to come in contact with the liquid that formed when the salt in the rub extracted moisture from the meat. After several weeks, I removed the belly from the container and rinsed it well with clean water, drying it with paper towels. I then re-rubbed the pork belly with more of the coffee rub and placed it in the smoker for 2 hours at 250 degrees, smoking it with hickory, my favorite wood for bacon.

 

The pork belly, re-rubbed and ready to smoke.

 

It just so happened that on the weekend I was smoking the belly, I decided to smoke a couple of racks of pork ribs for myself. These also came from a beautiful heritage Berkshire pig, and I coated them with the coffee rub, allowing them to rest in the fridge for 24 hours putting them in the smoker.

 

The Berkshire pork ribs, rubbed and ready to smoke. I cut the racks in half for easier handling.

 

Since the ribs and belly were in the smoker at the same time, the ribs first smoked at 250 degrees with hickory along with the bacon, for about 2 hours. Once I removed the bacon, I dropped the temperature of the smoker to 225, and smoked the ribs for 2 more hours. I then removed the ribs, sprinkled them with a little more coffee rub, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, before returning them to the smoker for another hour.

 

 

The ribs, and the bacon, were absolute perfection!

 

 

The ribs, smoked for several hours.

 

Re-sprinkling a little coffee rub on the ribs.

 

Wrapping the half-racks in foil. Some go back to the smoker, some head for the freezer to be enjoyed later.

 

Since I had 2 full racks of ribs, more than enough for several meals, I cut each rack in half before smoking for easier handling. Once I wrapped them in foil, I let a couple of them cool on the counter before placing them in a freezer bag and putting them in the freezer for future use. Already smoked and cured, all I’ll need to do is take a foil package out of the freezer, and place it in a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours to warm the ribs up and make them fall-off-the-bone tender.

 

The ribs, after another hour in the foil.

 

Here’s my coffee rub recipe. Make a lot of it and use it on everything from burgers to whole chickens to pulled pork sandwiches.

 

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

 

Rib perfection!

 

Bone broth has become all the rage…and why not? Bone broths are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, taste great and heal the body. Many people with bad digestion, or “leaky gut,” swear by it.

I love the flavor, and I never really thought of making my own bone broth until I visited Sweet & Salty Farm, a local dairy farm in Little Compton, RI. They’re in the business of making cheese and yogurt, so they rely on the females to supply them with all the grass-fed milk they need. But sometimes the females also produce a male calf, not exactly useful on a dairy farm. So…they become veal.

Unlike the horror stories you hear about at factory farms, where calves are taken away from their mothers almost immediately, the folks at Sweet & Salty allow their calves to feed off their moms and graze in the field next to them, until they reach a size and age that no longer requires their mother’s care. When mom is willing to let go, only then do they go.

 

 

Those are the veal bones that I use to make my veal bone broth. Much like making a stock, the ingredients are simple and healthy. It just takes time to make a really delicious and healthy bone broth, cooking the broth ingredients for at least 24 hours…48 is better! I usually start the boiling process on a Saturday morning, letting it boil all day, literally until I go to bed that night. I turn the heat off, then restart it the next morning and boil all day again before pouring the bone broth into containers. I replace the water as needed.

 

 

It goes without saying that you need a large pot. I just recently bought a huge 30-quart stainless steel pot with a strainer for lobster cooking. It’s also perfect for making bone broth. I fill the pot with clean, filtered water and put it on high heat.

Meanwhile, I heat the oven to 400 degrees.

 

The pan of bones and veggies goes in the oven.

 

 

4  or 5 lbs. grass-fed veal bones
large pot clean filtered water
4 onions, quartered (no peeling needed)
4 carrots, roughly chopped (washed, but not peeled)
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped (washed)

 

I cook until the vegetables are slightly caramelized and their flavors are concentrated. I remove them from the pan and toss them in the pot of water. I put the bones back in the oven until they start to release their fat and flavors.

 

The veggies are ready for the pot. The bones stay in the oven a bit longer.

 

 

Once the bones have a nice brown color to them, I put them and the veggies in the pot. Any fat that was released by the bones also goes in. (This fat is healthy and full of flavor.)

Then it’s time to boil…for a very long time. I replace the water in the pot as needed, starting the boiling process on high heat, then reducing to medium, cooking with the pot covered, letting it cook for as long as I can.

 

 

After 48 hours, I finally get delicious bone broth that was worth all the effort: hearty, satisfying, healthy.

Rather than try to skim the fat off a huge pot of bone broth, I choose to portion out the broth in pint-sized containers, and keep them in the freezer. Then, when it’s time to use the bone broth, it’s easy to scrape the fat off the top of the frozen broth before I re-heat it. But I have to tell you: I don’t usually do that! The fat is go-o-o-d!

 

 

I leave spices, salt, pepper and garlic out of the bone broth, choosing to add them to the broth later, depending on what I’m using it for. If I’m simply sipping the bone broth by itself, a little sea salt as I reheat it is all that it needs.

 

A batch of bone broth that will last a long time!

 

 

I use bone broth to make tasty soups and stews, sauces and gravies, to flavor rice, or just heat it and drink it as is.

 

 

I had a ridiculous harvest of shishito peppers in my garden this year, all from a mere eight plants. They were so prolific, I ate blistered shishitos almost every day for weeks on end…and that was after I gave away pounds of them to friends.

I was at my wits’ end. The season was waining, but I had bags and bags of shishitos in my fridge. Then on Instagram, my friend Ron exclaimed: “Pickle them!”

I had no idea you could do that!

 

Pickling shishitos…why didn’t I think of this sooner?

 

So, thanks, Ron. You saved the harvest! And by the way… While the pickling brine was boiling, I blistered and ate another batch of shishitos! (Needed to do something while I was waiting… )

 

Blistered shishitos gone!

 

The original recipe for pickled shishitos suggested that I boil the pickling spices and then combine them with sliced shishitos. But I didn’t like the idea of having whole peppercorns and other spices getting stuck in my teeth. I wanted their flavor, but I didn’t want to bite into them whole. (If you’ve ever accidentally bitten into a peppercorn, you know what I mean.)

So I strained the brining liquid after boiling, and then combined it with the shishitos. I got all the flavor, and none of the grit.

 

I cut the stem ends off the shishitos, then sliced them into rings.

 

 

2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
2 tablespoons pickling spices
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound shishito peppers, sliced into rings

 

Boil a couple of Mason jars in a large pot to clean them. Let them air dry completely.

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, sugar, pickling spices, black peppercorns, and sea salt. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let to boil for 5 to 8 minutes.

The take pickling liquid off the heat and strain it into a bowl. Discard the spices. Add the sliced shishitos into the pickling liquid, mixing well, and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the Mason jars and seal them tightly. Let them cool to room temperature. (You should hear the lids of the Mason jars make a popping noise to seal properly.)

Once the peppers have cooled, place the jars in the fridge and let them sit in the fridge for a week or so until the flavors combine.

 

 

The pickled shishitos are great on salads, sandwiches, cheese platters, and anything else that needs a kick in the pants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems like the popularity of shishito peppers has exploded overnight. Once a rare treat that I could only get on the menu at one of my favorite Boston restaurants, Toro, now they’re everywhere: farmers markets, bistro and pub menus, and of course…my own garden!

 

Shishitos are on almost every menu these days!

 

Shishito peppers are mostly mild…but you can get hold of a spicy one every 10 peppers or so…kind of a Russian pepper roulette!

 

Shishitos straight from the garden!

 

Shishitos are incredibly easy to grow…just like any other pepper. They love a full day’s worth of sun, and lots of fertilizer. If you have success growing tomatoes, shishitos should be on your list. Plus, they’re really quite prolific: it’s not uncommon to find a couple dozen peppers growing on each plant!

Shishitos are also easy to prepare, and take just minutes. Ideally, if you’ve already got a charcoal grill going, you’re almost there. Simply place the shishitos in a bowl and drizzle in a little olive oil. Toss the peppers to coat, and place them directly on the ashed-over coals of the fire. Work quickly turning them over with tongs. You want them to blister, but you don’t want them to burn! They’ll pop, deflate, and get soft. That’s when they’re ready. Simply place them on a serving plate, and sprinkle some really good sea salt (I like Fleur de Sel) over them while they’re still hot.

 

 

If you don’t have the time for a charcoal grill, you can still prepare delicious shishitos by placing them in a pan. Sprinkle in a little olive oil, and toss them around to coat them. Turn the burner on high, and cook the shishitos until they’re blistered, but not burned. Cook them on all sides, carefully flipping them over with tongs. Like on the charcoal, they will pop, deflate and get soft. Transfer them to a serving plate and sprinkle immediately with salt.

 

To enjoy shishitos, you simply grab them by the stem and bite!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I love the Kona-crusted NY strip at the Capital Grille, so much so that it inspired me to make a coffee rub of my own. I’ve been using it on steaks and burgers for years. But last week, I used it on a slow-smoked pork shoulder for the first time, and it was fantastic!

I used a smaller pork shoulder, about 6 lbs., and smoked it for about 12 hours. Obviously, if you use a larger hunka meat, you’ll need more time. I prefer a bone-in shoulder over boneless. I think it gives greater flavor.

 

Rubbed and ready to smoke!

 

My coffee rub is easy to make, and I usually make a lot of it at once, since it stores well.

 

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

I mix all the ingredients well, then rub generously on the pork shoulder before placing it a 250-degree smoker for about 12 hours. I use an electric smoker, which allows me to set the temperature and forget it, with the exception of occasionally adding hickory chips. I love just a hint of smokiness…I don’t want the rub to be overpowered by the smoke.

 

Perfectly smoked, with the bone easily sliding out of the shoulder.

The brown sugar in the coffee rub creates a beautiful crust on the meat, which goes really well with the pork and the barbecue sauce I make.

The barbecue sauce uses much-needed vinegar. It cuts through the rich fattiness of the pork, and is absolutely delicious.

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
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

 

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

 

A beautifully smoked pork shoulder, amazing barbecue sauce…what more do you need for an amazing pulled pork sandwich except a toasted brioche bun and perhaps some of my world-famous home fries on the side?

The home fries? That recipe is for another blog!

 

 

My raspberry plants are producing a ton of fruit, my mint plants are taking over the yard, and my neighbor has her little blueberry cart out by the street! It’s time to make mojitos!

Very often, I’ll use raspberries alone, but mojitos are even better when you combine the raspberries with blueberries. I have a few blueberry bushes in my yard, but it seems that the birds get to them before I even get a chance. Fortunately, my neighbor puts a little farm stand up in front of her home, so I stock up on blueberries, rinsing them and placing them in plastic bags that go in the freezer until I’m ready to make my mojitos….or smoothies, if I’m feeling particularly healthy.

Store-bought frozen fruit works well, too, so if you don’t have a farm stand down the road, don’t feel like you can’t make this fabulous cocktail. Just make sure you’re using organic fruit. Pesticides should never be a cocktail ingredients!  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

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, don’t add the club soda to the pitcher. Instead, fill a tall glass with ice. Fill it one-third to halfway with club soda, then top with the mojito mix. Garnish it with a mint leaf.

 

Cheers!

Cheers!

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.