Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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!

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!

MY TAKE ON SHEPHERDS PIE

Posted: July 5, 2021 in Uncategorized

When my daughter returned from a week at summer camp recently, I asked her what she wanted for her first meal. She quickly went to her comfort zone and asked for Shepherds pie.


Using the Food Network recipe by Alton Brown as a guide, we made our own changes to accommodate the fact that she doesn’t like lamb. (The original recipe calls for ground lamb. We went with a bottom round beef roast that I trimmed and cubed.)

And, if we’re talking about comfort food, how could adding grated cheddar cheese hurt anything?


It came out absolutely delicious!

A few notes: I use organic vegetables, organic grass-fed dairy products, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, and homemade chicken stock. These extra efforts make a difference to me, but use what you are most comfortable with and have easiest access to.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, the only gluten in this recipe is in the all-purpose flour. Using a GF flour, like Cup 4 Cup, does a great job of thickening without the gluten. Feel free to substitute it.

2 oz. cheddar cheese

I start by grating 2 the cheddar cheese. I set it aside for later.

The potatoes…

1 1/2 lbs. Russets, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 oz. unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
 

Peeled and cubed potatoes and place them in a pot of cold water. Bring it to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are fork-tender.
While they are boiling, place the half-and-half and butter in a microwave safe bowl and zap them for 35 seconds to warm them up.
Once the potatoes are done, drain them and place them back in the pot. Add the half-and-half and butter and mash really well. Add the salt and pepper and continue mashing. Finally, add the egg yolk, mixing quickly and thoroughly. Then set the potatoes aside.

The meat filling…

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or your favorite oil)
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 lbs. beef, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 400°.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the meat filling.

Place the bacon fat or oil in a pan and set it on medium high heat. Add the onions and the carrots and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir.
Add the beef and the salt and pepper and cook until the meat has browned nicely.
Sprinkle to meat with the flour, and mix to combine, cooking for another minute.
Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme, and stir to combine.
Bring this to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and cook it for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened nicely.

Add the corn and the peas to the meat mixture, and then pour it into a baking pan. ( I used a 9-inch round metal baking pan that was about 3 inches deep.)

Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture. If you use the mashed potatoes all around the edges, it seals the meat mixture in, and prevents bubbling over and messing up your oven. A rubber spatula makes this job easy.

Place the pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet (to prevent spills), and in the oven to bake for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the pan and sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes. Then return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes, until the cheese has melted and created a beautiful golden crust on top.

Remove the pan from the oven, placed it on a wire rack, and let it cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sometimes, a refreshing cocktail is just what you need after a long day of yard work. Whether you’ve got cucumbers growing in your garden to not, this one fits the bill!

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
4 oz. vodka (I like Tito’s)
1 oz. orange liqueur (I like Cointreau)

Peel and seed the cucumbers. Coarsely chop them and then purée them in a food processor until smooth. Strain them through a fine sieve, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Or, if you have one, use a juicer. Set the extracted 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 the glasses. Garnish with a cucumber spear or peel…or mint.

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

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

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

 

The ingredients

 

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

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

 

mojito pitcher

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

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

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

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

 

Cheers!

Cheers!

I’m not a jealous guy. But when, just the other day, I saw my friends post that they’re on their way to one of my favorite islands in the world, St. John in the USVI, I got jealous.

I thought about the many trips I’ve taken there, alone and with friends, and the mandatory catamaran trip we took to sip Painkillers at my all-time favorite beach bar, the Soggy Dollar on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

For a while during Covid, the BVI was closed to Americans, but now, happily, we’re allowed back!

The Painkiller is one of the tastiest rum drinks you can make, and one that certainly brings you back to the Caribbean. And it was invented at the Soggy Dollar. Located on White Bay, a stretch of the whitest most beautiful sand in the Caribbean, surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters, there is no dock. You have to anchor your boat offshore and swim…hence the name: the Soggy Dollar.

Daphne Henderson was the owner of the Soggy Dollar years ago, and she is credited for inventing the Painkiller, which used Pusser’s rum, a British rum that is readily available here in the United States. Charles Tobias, a businessman that received permission from the British Royal Navy to commercialize Pusser’s rum in 1980, tasted the Painkiller and realized the potential of this amazing drink. He took some Painkillers home to the island of Tortola, where he experimented in recreating that drink, coming up with what he thought was something that was as good as—if not better than—the original. He called it the Pusser’s Painkiller.

Tobias never found out what Daphne Henderson’s original recipe was, but when he brought his own Pusser’s Painkillers back to the Soggy Dollar, and had a tasting battle between the two recipes, legend has it that his recipe won 10 out of 10 times. With 4 Pusser’s bars and restaurants in the Caribbean and 2 more in the states, Tobias quickly made the Pusser’s Painkiller the signature drink of these now-famous establishments…and perhaps the most popular drink among the sailing community in the US, Caribbean and West Indies.

The drink itself is simple…

PUSSER’S PAINKILLER
4 parts pineapple juice
1 part cream of coconut
1 part orange juice

Combine these 3 ingredients, with lots of fresh grated nutmeg in a glass with ice. How much Pusser’s rum you use depends on how hammered you want to get! A Pusser’s #2 uses 2 parts rum…a Pusser’s #3 uses 3 parts rum…and a Pusser’s #4 uses 4 parts rum!

I’ve had several Pusser’s #4’s back in the day when there was a Pusser’s bar on St. John in the USVI many years ago. I’ve also sampled them in the BVI at the 2 Pusser’s locations on Tortola.  But I still prefer going back to Jost Van Dyke and knocking back a few at the place where the Painkiller was born, the greatest beach bar on planet Earth: the Soggy Dollar Bar.

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to go back. But my bathing suit is already packed. Me, below, in happier days…

Sailing away many years ago…

Cauliflower seems to be the veggie of choice these days. You’ll find it riced to take the place of rice or mashed potatoes, in a crust for pizza, and now, the dish du jour is a cauliflower steak. All you need to do is to slice the cauliflower into thick, steak-like pieces, and then bake them. The thicker cut gives the cauliflower a more meaty texture. Of course, with a meat sauce, I’m using cauliflower as a pasta substitute in this dish.

The marinade I use for the cauliflower is pretty simple, with my favorite Italian flavors. With the garden now growing happily, I use fresh herbs, but you can use dry as well.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cups chopped scallions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
chopped fresh parsley and oregano to taste
salt and pepper

Combine these ingredients in a bowl.

Slice the head of cauliflower across the whole head into 1 1/2-inch steak-like pieces. Place them on a baking pan covered with non-stick aluminum foil. Brush the cauliflower on both sides with the marinade. Use it all up!

Place the baking pan in a pre-heated 400-degree oven and bake it for about an hour, until the cauliflower is golden brown on the edges. Flip the cauliflower steaks over after the first 30 minutes.

It’s OK if your cauliflower steaks break apart a bit. They’ll still taste great!

The meat sauce I use is one that I make all the time with simple ingredients…

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 28-oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
dried oregano, basil and parsley
granulated garlic
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté them until they’re translucent, then add the ground beef. Cook the beef until it has browned completely. Add the can of tomatoes, chopping the whole tomatoes up with a spatula (or squeezing them with your hands), breaking up the big pieces into smaller chunks. (I like my sauce a little chunky.) Add the oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce cook down until it has thickened.

When the cauliflower steaks are ready, place them on a plate and pour the awesome meat sauce on them. Garnish with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

SCALLION “PESTOCHURRI”

Posted: May 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

I love chimichurri and I love pesto. And although both are similar, with many of the same ingredients, they are definitely not the same.

Chimichurri is found in Argentinian, Paraguayan, and Uruguayan cuisines, and features parsley as the main green ingredient. People from those countries will tell you that cilantro has no place in a true chimichurri recipe. It is used as a marinade as well as a side dressing to grilled meats, and often contains vinegar, which pesto does not.

Pesto, on the other hand, is less strict in its ingredients. I’ve made pesto with the classic basil, but also with spinach or arugula. Pesto also features nuts, like the classic pine nuts, but also pistachios, walnuts, or even macadamia nuts. (There are no nuts in chimichurri.) Pesto often features cheese as well.


So when my garden had an abundance of scallions, I decided I would make a chimichurri/pesto hybrid using whatever ingredients I had in my cupboard. What I came up with was absolutely delicious as both a marinade and side dressing. This time, I tried it on chicken.


1 cup chopped scallions, tightly packed
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 salted pistachio nuts, shelled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (plus more) extra virgin olive oil


Place the scallions, garlic, pistachios, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.


Start the processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until you get the consistency of a loose paste.

How thick you want your pesto is a personal choice. You might need more than 1/4 cup of olive oil.



I used chicken leg quarters, and I brushed them on both sides with the pesto, and let them sit for an hour before baking them in a pre-heated 350° oven. They baked for one hour.


A bad weather day prevented me from finishing them on the grill, but they still came out flavorful, with a crispy skin.

I ate the chicken using the extra pesto as a dipping sauce on the side.



Note: For safety, I take a small amount of the pesto and put it in a separate bowl when I brush it on the meat. I don’t want to have raw chicken contaminating the rest of the pesto I will want to use later to serve on the side!

This is a really delicious grilled steak full of wonderful Thai flavors. You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind. The overnight marinating is key to the intense and unbelievable flavor of the beef.

The original recipe called for skirt steak, but I didn’t have any in my freezer. I did have a fat ribeye, though, so once I thawed it, I sliced it lengthwise to get two large, thin steaks which would easily suck up the marinade I was going to make. And the ribeye was nicely marbled, so it stayed juicy and tender. Beef flap is another favorite cut that would work well with this recipe.

image

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chile oil
2 lbs. beef ribeye (or skirt steak or beef flap)
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, sugar, lime juice and chile oil. Transfer half of it to a shallow dish.

Add the steak to the dish and turn the meat to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate the beef overnight. Refrigerate the other half of the marinade in a separate container.

The next day, light a grill. While it’s warming up, get out a sauce pan and pour the chicken stock in along with the reserved marinade. Heat it to combine it well, but not letting it reach a boil. Remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. This will be the dipping sauce for the beef.

About 30 minutes before cooking, take the marinated steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Season it with salt and pepper, and grill it over high heat until it’s medium-rare, about 5 minutes.

If it’s too cold to light a grill, or if you just want to use the oven, heat a cast iron pan on the stovetop, add a few drops of avocado oil or pork fat, and sear the beef on both sides before placing it in a pre-heated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

Devour the beef with the dipping sauce!

RADISH GREENS PESTO

Posted: May 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

We had an unusually cool spring here in Southern New England, and although my radish plants thrived, the sudden spike in temperature means the end of the radish season. What’s left in my “vedge ledge” garden are lots of radish plants that never formed bulbs…just the tops.

The “Vedge Ledge”


Lots of greens…not many bulbs.

Radish tops are too rough and chewy for salads. But can I save them for something a little more adventurous than simply steaming or sautéing them? The answer is yes: pesto!

I found a few more bulbs along the way.

I harvested all of my radishes, finding a few lovely little bulbs along the way, and washed the greens thoroughly. Then they took a ride in the salad spinner to dry off. I measured out 4 packed cups…giving them a squeeze down into the measuring cup. The rest of the ingredients were pretty standard for pesto, with a few exceptions.

A beautiful bowl of greens.

4 tightly packed cups radish greens, washed

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Juice of 1/2 a juicy lemon

1/2 cup salted pistachios, shelled

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Ready to go for a spin!

Add the radish greens, garlic, lemon juice, pistachios, grated cheese and olive oil to a bowl of a food processor. Run the processor for a minute, then check the pesto.

Scrape down anything that crawled up the sides of the bowl. Give the pesto a taste. Does it have enough salt? Is it too dry? Does it need more olive oil or tartness from the lemon juice? Add what you like to tweak it and make it your own.

Great color!

I’ve found that despite using salted pistachios and grated cheese, it still needed more salt. After all, a little pesto goes a long way, so the flavor needs to be intense.

I’ve made basic pesto using basil and pine nuts, and it’s delicious. I’ve also made pesto with arugula, and I’ll feature that recipe in an upcoming blog. Now I’ve added radish greens to my repertoire, and I’m really glad I did.

A dab of radish greens pesto on top of some sweet Italian sausage is a delicious treat!

After missing a year due to the pandemic, BOYZ weekend at my house returns this year on Kentucky Derby weekend. Although they ran the Kentucky Derby last fall, it’s nice to see it back on its original first weekend in May. All us boyz have gotten our vaccines, but we’ll still be doing all the necessary social distancing. And, of course, we’ll drink plenty of alcohol to kill all the germs.

The Mint Julep is such a perfect, classic and historic bourbon drink, it seems silly to wait until Derby Day to have one. Of course, as any aficionado of spirits will tell you, there are as many right ways as wrong ways of making one.

The first step in my Mint Julep is making the simple syrup. Learning from one of my old radio buddies, my pal Rick O’B, I infuse mint into my simple syrup to take my cocktail to the next level. I use the standard ratio of 1 cup of clean, filtered water to 1 cup of sugar, using an organic product like Woodstock Farms Organic Pure Cane Sugar. I place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. I’ve found that it needs to reach this stage for the sugar to really dissolve. As soon as it starts to boil, I remove the saucepan from the heat, and throw in a handful of freshly picked mint leaves, stirring to make sure the mint gets in there, and then I leave the saucepan to cool to room temperature. Once it’s at room temp, I strain the simple syrup into a bottle with a tight sealing lid, and place it in the refrigerator to cool. It will keep for about a week.

An equally important ingredient for a perfect Mint Julep is the ice: specifically, crushed ice from clean, filtered water. Don’t even think of using tap water for any cocktail much less this one. Why ruin an expensive bottle of bourbon by going cheap on the ice? I make my own ice cubes, then put them in an untreated canvas ice bag and bash them with a mallet to the perfect crushed size. Untreated canvas bags for crushing ice can be purchased online from bar supply companies for about $30. I got an untreated canvas tool bag (the exact same shape and size) at Home Depot for 3 bucks.

Da bag.

The next step is a little tougher: which bourbon to choose. The explosion of choices on the bourbon market has made it all but impossible for the average imbiber to know which bourbon is best for their tastes. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you go to a trusted bartender and explain that you’re new to the bourbon world, and could you have the tiniest of tastes and sniffs of what he’s got at his bar. Chances are, you’ll get a sampling of some of the better known brands: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, perhaps Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, and the standard Jim Beam. This is a very good start. If you have deeper pockets, go to the manager of a trusted higher-end liquor store and explain that you’ve had all the rest, now what does he think is the best? (Also, hinting to wife and friends that “I’m trying new bourbons” around your birthday or Father’s Day inevitably gets you a few bottles as well!)

My go-to bourbon for Mint Juleps is the very affordable Eagle Rare 10-year-old at $32.99 a bottle…and you can never go wrong with the classic Maker’s Mark. It’s always on sale around Derby Day.

Finally, a Mint Julep needs a metal–not glass– Julep cup. Made of pewter or aluminum, it frosts on the outside as you stir your drink, keeping your beverage ice-cold on even the hottest of days.

3 oz. bourbon
1 oz. mint-infused simple syrup
crushed ice
Julep cup
Fresh mint for garnish

Crush the ice and pack it into the Julep cup, even letting it dome slightly over the top. Don’t worry…the alcohol will melt it.

I like to add 1.5 ounces of bourbon, then the ounce of simple syrup, then another 1.5 ounces of bourbon on top. Break off a few mint leaves from the stem and push into the ice. Using a long spoon, stir the drink well. A beautiful layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup. Add more ice, if necessary, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

A nice selection of bourbons. This is an old photo: that Pappy Van Winkle is long gone…but I saved the bottle!