Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Just because I’ve got a garden full of fresh veggies, it doesn’t mean I have to gorge on nothing but salads! Sometimes, a refreshing cocktail is just what I need after a long day of yard work. This one fits the bill!

Imagine a vodka mojito, using cucumbers….

 

 

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.

During quarantine, I like to think back to the days when I could go to a restaurant or invite a few friends over for dinner. The following recipe is one that I prepared a while ago, and although I could make it for myself now, it takes a bit of preparation, as you’ll see…something you’d rather do for a group of friends. Maybe someday soon…

 

Sometimes a small bite can take a lot of preparation, and you just don’t appreciate it until you decide to make it yourself. That’s especially true with the classic Danish open sandwich called Smørrebrød. The ingredients can vary, but one of my favorite versions is with smoked salmon, on the brunch menu at the best restaurant in Rhode Island: Persimmon, in Providence. (They’re just starting their al fresco dining, by the way.)

The Salmon Smørrebrød at Persimmon.

 

With some very special friends coming over for dinner, I decided this would be the event where I debut my own version of Salmon Smørrebrød. I had my work cut out for me…

It starts with the salmon. One of the finest sources of wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon is Vital Choice, a purveyor of extremely high-quality wild-caught seafood. I ordered several large fillets and had them shipped frozen to my home. I thawed a couple of the fillets in the fridge, and then cured them for several days.

 

Make sure you get your salmon from a reliable source, and always get wild-caught, never farmed.

 

 

The recipe for the cure mix is simple:

1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns

Combine these ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.

Use a container that will hold the fillets without bending them. It also needs to be watertight, because the salt extracts moisture from the fish, and you don’t want spills from the liquids released during the curing process.

 

First, the plastic. Then, a layer of the cure mix. Then the salmon fillet, skin-side-down. More cure mix on top. Then the second fillet, with more cure mix on top of that.

 

Lay a few sheets of plastic wrap on the bottom, allowing them to fall over the sides of the container. Sprinkle a good, even layer of the cure mix on the bottom. Lay down the first salmon fillet, skin side down, on top of the cure mix. add more cure mix on top of the fillet to cover it completely. Lay the second fillet on top of that, then cover it completely with more of the cure mix. Fold the plastic wrap tightly over the top, pressing out as much air as you can.

 

Finally, wrapping the whole thing up tightly in plastic.

 

Pressure on the salmon helps the curing process, so the cure mix makes good contact with the flesh. I weigh it down with a few cans of tomato sauce.

 

Even pressure on the salmon fillets helps the curing process.

 

Put the salmon in the fridge for at least 48 hours, until the fillets are firm to the touch.

 

The fillets have changed color and are firmer to the touch once cured.

 

Once the salmon has cured, remove it from the plastic wrap and wash it thoroughly with clean, cold water to remove as much of the salt as possible. Some of the peppercorns will imbed themselves in the fish…remove those, too. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels.

 

The salmon is ready to eat just like this, but…

 

At this point, you’ve got Gravlax, and it’s delicious just the way it is. But I chose to go one step further and smoke the salmon, so I put the fillets on a metal rack in my fridge, skin side down, and let them dry out a bit for an hour or so. When the salmon dries, the flesh gets a bit tacky. That’s called the pellicle, and the sticky surface of the fish helps the smoke molecules adhere better. It’s a good thing.

 

The salmon fillets, drying in the fridge.

 

While the salmon is drying in the fridge, I get my smoking gear ready.

I like to use charcoal briquets and hickory chips for the smoking process. I bring my small camping grill next to my larger home grill. Using my charcoal chimney, I light the briquets and let them burn until they’re ashed over. Using a small smoking box, I place some hickory chips inside, then add a couple of hot briquets to it, making sure they burn the chips and the smoking starts. I place the smoking box inside my large grill with the vents open, laying my salmon fillets (skin-side-down) next to the smoking box. I close the lid of the grill, and let the smoking begin.

 

Lighting briquets in the camping grill before moving them to the larger grill.

 

Ashed-over coals in the chimney.

This is as close to a cold-smoking process as you can get at home. There is no heat actually cooking the salmon, just a smoke-filled grill that needs to be replenished every once in a while with hot coals and more hickory chips. I smoke the salmon for a couple of hours.

 

Let the smoking begin!

 

Once the salmon has smoked, you’ve got yourself a really special treat. You must eat some at this point, just to reward yourself for a job well done! Then, wrap the rest of the salmon tightly in plastic wrap, and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it. It will stay fresh in the fridge for several days.

My research for Salmon Smørrebrød resulted in many variations, but I ultimately chose one that used a horseradish cream on the fish. Just so happened that I have a giant horseradish plant growing in my garden, so it was time to dig some of the roots up!

 

Digging up horseradish.

Once I dug the roots out and washed them clean, they needed to be peeled down to their white center. Then they were ready to be grated. I used the same system my grandfather did, many years ago: a simple hand grater for the job. If you thought you cry when you slice onions, you ain’t seen nuthin’ until you’ve grated horseradish! But it’s worth the effort.

 

Cleaned horseradish roots, before peeling and grating.

 

You need freshly grated horseradish, not the prepared stuff you find in the supermarket for the cream…

 

12 tablespoons sour cream
6 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
8 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 pinches of sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Combine these ingredients in a bowl and mix well. It keeps for at least a day, so you can make it the night before serving. This is a lot of horseradish cream, but I was making enough to serve 12 people.

 

The horseradish cream…delicious on a lot of things!

 

1 fennel bulb
2 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

A few hours before serving, thinly slice a fennel bulb–paper-thin if you can–and place the slices in a bowl of ice water. Peel and core 2 Granny Smith apples and slice them as thinly as you can, placing them in the ice bath as well. After an hour, remove the fennel and apple slices from the ice water, pat them dry with paper towels, and place them in a bowl, sprinkling them with the lemon juice. Toss, mixing well, and then place the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

 

Slicing the fennel as thinly as possible.

 

A few last ingredients…

Sliced bread
Softened unsalted butter
Fresh dill sprigs

Smørrebrød is a sandwich, so of course, I needed some bread. I chose something from my heritage: Lithuanian bread, a combination of rye and pumpernickel that I find when I go back home to New York. I keep it in the freezer until I need it, and for this recipe, I sliced it thin.

 

Getting the ingredients together. The Lithuanian bread is the brown bread. We also had a couple of slices of gluten-free bread.

 

Now we’re finally ready to build this thing!

 

Slicing the salmon as thinly as possible.

 

Rather than making all the sandwiches myself, I decided I’d teach a Master Class of Smørrebrød-making with my fabulous guests. So I brought all the ingredients out, and we started building our sandwiches as I sliced the salmon as thinly as possible.

 

First, you take your slice of Lithuanian bread and spread some of the butter on it.

Then, layer the fabulous salmon on top.

Next, a healthy spread of the horseradish cream.

Top with some of the sliced fennel and apple.

Garnish with just a few fresh sprigs of dill.

And then top it all off with a friendly sprinkling of Fleur de Sel, or your favorite sea salt.

 

Fleur de Sel at the end makes all the difference!

 

And that’s my Salmon Smørrebrød…a labor of love. But that’s what you do for friends, right?

 

Time to eat!

 

Leftover ingredients make a great sandwich on an everything bagel the next day!

 

 

Skip the necktie. If your dad’s a food nut, he deserves something better! All of these ideas have been rigorously tested by our panel of experts (OK, just me), and get a big thumbs up. This article was originally published a few years ago, but I’d still be happy to get any of these for Father’s Day!

 

Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smokehouse: I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to grilling. I refuse to use a gas grill because I think there’s no difference between that and my kitchen stove. I use real hardwood charcoal, with real smoke and real flavor. But when it comes to smoking meats, basic smokers require constant maintenance so that the temperatures don’t fluctuate. I’m just too busy for that, especially if I’m cooking something low and slow for about 12 hours. So I have a digital smoker. I plug it in, set the time and temperature, and then periodically add wood chips through a side drawer to smoke the meat. I can literally set it and forget it. I have it cook through the night, so I wake up to a beautifully smoked slab of meat in the morning.

 

Cognac! How can you go wrong with booze for Father’s Day? But if you’re looking for something really special to give Dad (or your favorite blogger), it’s Kelt XO. What makes Kelt XO special is that before bottling, they place the barrels of cognac on board ships that sail the world for months at a time. During this time, the cognac gently rocks back and forth in the barrels, slowly acquiring a smoothness you can’t find in other spirits. Each bottle even comes with a tag that tells you exactly what ports around the world your cognac has been to. Worth the search at high-end liquor stores.

jack daniels

 

Jack Daniels smoking chips: Whether you have a smoker or not, these chips will make anything you cook taste better. Made from the old oak barrels that they use to age Jack Daniels, you get a serious hit of whiskey in every bag…and in your food. Simply toss a handful of chips you’ve soaked in water for about a half hour, and they will infuse the food on your grill with flavor. You can also use them dry, on charcoal or gas grills.

 

Cookbook favorites: “Jamie at Home,” by Jamie Oliver (a great combination gardening/cookbook), “Charcuterie,” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (the best book on how to cure and smoke meats), “Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Butts, and Other Great Feeds,” by Jeanne Voltz (my absolute barbecue Bible!), and “Martin Yan’s Feast: The Best of Yan Can Cook” by Martin Yan (the authority on Asian cooking.)

 

Redi-Check Remote Cooking Thermometer: Even someone who has barbecued all their lives runs the risk of burning or undercooking a roast or a large bird. Opening the grill and jabbing the meat with a thermometer several times causes the juices from the meat to run out, leaving it dry…and every time you open the grill, you lose precious heat. This is the better solution: You stick the needle into the roast or bird and leave it in there the entire time it cooks, so no juices leak out. You plug it into the monitor which then calls you when the meat is ready (from as far as 100 feet away!) You set the time or temperature, and then get to join your guests for the party.

smoking gun

 

Smoking Gun: There are times when you don’t need a full-on smoker. All you want to do is smoke a small piece of fish or a hunk of cheese.  You simply take some of the finely ground wood chip powder (comes with the gun) and place it in the pipe-like bowl. Light it, and the Smoking Gun will blow that smoke through a hose into the Ziploc bag where your piece of fish is waiting for its magical transformation to smoky deliciousness.

 

Mason jar cocktail shaker: A fun new way for Dad to make his martini.

mason jar, baking steel

 

Oh, and by the way…dads don’t care if your gift is late. You can still buy it now and give it to him later!

Pork is magical. And though I’ve loved pork chops and store-bought bacon all my life, it’s only been in the last decade that I’ve learned to appreciate other cuts of pork and how they’re prepared. Guanciale is one of those meats, and it’s a key ingredient to a classic Italian dish: pasta carbonara.

 

In the beginning, I could only find huge jowls that required them to be cut and weighed to mix with the right amount of cure.

Looking at carbonara recipes online, many said the same thing: “Though a genuine carbonara uses a cured cut of pork called guanciale, it’s hard to find. So use pancetta or bacon.” Although both pancetta and bacon meats are quite tasty (both come from the belly of the pig…bacon is smoked, pancetta is not) the flavor and texture is not the same as a pork cheek, or jowl…and that’s what guanciale is made from.
My search for guanciale started with a local restaurant, the Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Being a buddy of the owner (and bribing him with alcohol), I asked if he’d order me some jowls. He did, and that worked well for a while. But I didn’t want to keep bothering him every time I wanted more, so I eventually found my own source on line that supplied me with massive jowls weighing many pounds each, as in the photo above. They were good, but a pain to work with. Eventually, that company went out of business.
I finally found my go-to pork website: http://www.heritagepork.com. They sell a variety of pork products made from a heritage breed of pig known as Berkshire, also called kurobuta. It’s delicious with wonderful fat that’s healthy and full of flavor. And conveniently, they sell pork jowls in smaller, 2-pound packs.

Berkshire pork jowls with fresh thyme from the garden and the dry cure mix.

 

My curing process is simple: sugar, salt, peppercorns, and fresh thyme. I cure the jowls for about 3 weeks. I rinse them once they’ve cured, and pat them dry. They still need to cook, but they’re ready to use for carbonara, ragu bolognese, topping a pizza, or any other delicious recipe that comes my way…and they freeze really well.
Once I made my first batch, there was no turning back!
2 lbs. raw pork jowls
1/2 cup basic dry cure (recipe below)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
Combine the basic dry cure, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a bowl. We’ll call this the cure mix.
On a large work surface, lay down several sheets of plastic wrap, overlapping each other to keep the cure mix from leaking through to the counter underneath. Sprinkle half of the cure mix onto the plastic wrap in an area where the jowls will lay. Scatter a half-dozen thyme sprigs on top of the cure mix. Lay the pieces of pork jowl on top of the cure mix and thyme.

I place the cure mix and sprigs of thyme on a long sheet of plastic wrap.

 

The pork jowls go on top.

Then top the jowls with the rest of the cure mix, covering them evenly, and top with more thyme sprigs.

Press down on the jowls to really get the cure mix to stick.

Fold the plastic wrap over the jowls as tightly as you can, pressing the salt mix into the meat. If the wrap is loose, use more wrap to really tighten the salt cure around the meat. Then place the entire pork-wrapped package in a container that will hold the liquid that will ooze out during the curing process.

Into a container with a lid and into the fridge.

 

Place the container in the fridge to cure for 3 weeks.
Every couple of days, flip the plastic wrap package over, so that the top is now the bottom. Then return it to the fridge. You want the cure to get at every part of the pork. Don’t pour off any liquid that forms…it gets kind of gooey, but it will help the curing process.

3 weeks later…

In about 3 weeks, the pork jowls will feel firmer. This is a sign they’ve been properly cured. Remove them from the plastic wrap, rinse them thoroughly under cold clean water, then pat them dry with paper towels.

They’re perfect…they just need a rinse.

 

Cured, rinsed and dried guanciale. Cut the jowls into smaller pieces before freezing. A little goes a long way!

 

At this point, you can cut the jowls (now officially guanciale!) into smaller pieces, wrapping each well and placing them in freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for a long time.
Many guanciale recipes tell you to hang the meat in the fridge for at least a week after curing, but I haven’t really found the need to do that if I’m keeping them frozen. The drying process keeps the meat from getting moldy, but that’s only if you keep it in warmer temperatures.

Always slice off a little to fry up a test batch! It’s all about quality control!

 

The Basic Dry Cure
This cure’s extremely simple, and you can cure many meats with it. But it does require a special ingredient: pink salt. This is not pink Himalayan salt. This is a very special curing salt that must be used in small amounts. (You can easily find it online.) It contains nitrites which will help preserve the meat and give it a good color. Many people get bent out of shape over nitrites these days, so you need to decide whether you want to use pink salt or not. I do, because I don’t eat pounds of guanciale like a lab rat. If you don’t use it, the meat will turn a bit gray–nothing wrong with it, just not an appealing color.
1 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/2 cup organic turbinado  sugar
5 teaspoons pink curing salt
Combine these ingredients and mix well. Store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag in your pantry.
An important note: the reason I give the brand name for the salt is because all Kosher salt does not weigh the same! A cup-and-a-half of Morton Kosher Salt, for example, will weigh more and will throw off the recipe.

TUNA TARTARE

Posted: June 12, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

For me, the only way to eat tuna is raw, and not just sushi or sashimi. I’m not  a fan of what most restaurants do: serving tuna seared on the outside and rare on the inside. You can tell the quality of the tuna just isn’t there. It usually needs to be drowned in soy sauce to have any taste at all.

So getting my tuna fix often means I’ve got to prepare something at home.

If you’re paranoid about parasites, tuna is probably the safest fish to eat raw. I buy my tuna wild-caught and frozen from reputable sources.

Technically, fish needs to be frozen at a temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days, for parasites to be killed. In the United States, this is required by law of all fish served at sushi restaurants, with tuna being the only exception.

Most marinades or ceviches use lemon or lime. I enjoy the freshness of grapefruit, and it really works here. This recipe was literally created by opening my fridge and pantry, and grabbing whatever looked good.

 

fullsizerender-10

1 lb. excellent quality raw tuna
juice of 1 grapefruit
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
2 teaspoons low-salt soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I use Fleur de Sel)
1 tablespoon chopped scallions, green part only
sesame seeds (optional)
cubed avocado or plain guacamole

 

If I’m starting with frozen tuna, I allow it to thaw just enough so I can cut it into small cubes easily. I place the cut tuna on paper towels to soak up excess moisture, and keep it in the fridge.

In a bowl, I combine all the other ingredients, except the sesame seeds and avocado. I add the tuna to the bowl, and mix everything carefully, putting it back in the fridge to marinate for an hour.

When I’m ready to serve, I place the tuna on a plate. (If it’s very runny, I use a slotted spoon.) I top it with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and serve with fresh cubed avocado, or even plain guacamole.

 

fullsizerender-6

 

 

The great thing about this dessert is that it’s incredibly easy to make, takes only minutes, and uses only healthy ingredients. It has become my daughter’s go-to snack, beating ice cream–which really says something. And interestingly enough, I use the same exact ingredients when I make a smoothie. There are only two differences: I use less liquid and I use the freezer for this dessert…because the secret is to freeze the fruit before making it.

When it comes to berries, especially strawberries, I always go organic because they spray a ton of pesticides on them, which you can’t wash off. In fact, strawberries are on the notorious Environmental Working Group’s  “Dirty Dozen” list every year. Google it to see what other produce you might want to go strictly organic with.

We love dairy at my house, but we always go organic, and grass-fed when possible. You can substitute your favorite non-dairy milk to make this vegan.

 

 

 

 

2 ripe frozen bananas
Frozen organic blueberries, strawberries or raspberries
1/4 cup organic grass-fed whole milk
Splash of SoBe Water (or Bai or similar fruit enhanced water…optional)

 

I use the smaller compartment in my food processor for this treat. I don’t use a blender because it goes too far and liquefies everything.

Break the frozen bananas into pieces and drop them in the processor along with the fruit. (The green tops of strawberries are totally edible and add flavor. Don’t be afraid of them!)

 

Add the milk and SoBe Water. Don’t add too much…you can always add more later.

 

 

Process the fruit and keep an eye on it. As soon as the chunks fade and you get a smooth consistency, turn the processor off…you’re done!

 

Smooooth!

 

Enjoy it immediately!

 

A great treat anytime of day! My daughter has it for breakfast!

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!

Thinking a lot about my Mom these past few days…and, of course, I thought about the family favorites she would cook. If there’s one dish that my Mom made all the time but I didn’t appreciate until I got older, this is it. Stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls, or balandėliai, as we say in Lithuanian, was a staple in our home and one of my Dad’s favorites. 

I had seen my Mom make these beauties so often in my childhood, I didn’t even need to check online recipes out for guidance. That doesn’t mean I make them exactly like Mom, but my version came out pretty good. I think she would’ve been proud.

 

image

 

4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
1 lb. ground pastured pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 large head cabbage
1 pint homemade chicken, beef or veal stock
750 g diced tomatoes (1 Pomi container)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry them until crisp. Finely chop the onion, and add it to the bacon and rendered fat in the pan, cooking until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Mix well, and remove from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, and cooled bacon and onion mixture. Place it in the fridge to firm up.

Let a large pot of salted water come to a boil. Core the cabbage, leaving the leaves whole, and carefully immerse the head of cabbage into the hot water. Little by little, the outermost leaves of the cabbage will come off the head, and you can remove them with tongs, so you don’t burn yourself with the hot water. Set the leaves aside to cool, and continue doing this until you can no longer remove leaves from the remaining head of cabbage.

Remove the remaining head of cabbage from the hot water, and using your hands or a knife, break it into flat pieces. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with the pieces. These will keep the stuffed cabbage from burning and sticking to the bottom.

Time to roll the stuffed cabbage. Take the meat out of the fridge. Lay a cabbage leaf flat on the counter, and add some of the meat mixture inside. Roll the cabbage around the meat, folding the sides in as you go, much like a burrito. You might need to slice away the thickest part of the leaf stem to make rolling easier. Lay the stuffed cabbage in the roasting pan on top of the leftover cabbage pieces. (Unlike Mom, I don’t use toothpicks to hold the stuffed cabbage rolls together.)

Continue stuffing and rolling the cabbage leaves until you’ve got a pan full of them, shoulder-to-shoulder.

In a blender, food processor, or whisked in a bowl, combine the stock, diced tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Pour this mixture over the top of the cabbage rolls in the roasting pan, covering them.

 

 

If you have leftover cabbage, you can place another layer of them on top. Otherwise, cover the roasting pan with foil and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Cook for an hour.

 

 

After an hour, remove the foil and cook further for another 45–60 minutes.

 

image

 

Really delicious and an instant flashback to great memories of dinner at home….thanks to Mom.

 

 

I’m avoiding fast-food drive-thru’s for several reasons these days. For one thing, we’re all trying our best to limit contact with others during this pandemic. And for another, fast food is never a healthy option.

The Big Mac is one of my guilty pleasures. Created in 1965, it’s not-such-a-big Mac anymore, having shrunk quite a bit from its original size. That probably explains why they offered the Double Big Mac, containing a total of 4 patties, a few weeks ago.

Burger King made their attempt at recreating the Big Mac a few years ago, with little success.

 

 

I figured it was time for me to try my hand at it, the biggest challenge, of course: recreating the Special Sauce that goes on every Big Mac.

Some research on line brought me dozens of recipes, and after much trial and error, I came up with what I think is a pretty good copy of that famous sauce…good enough to make me forget about the drive-thru under those golden arches for a while.

 

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons French dressing
4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

When I first tried making this recipe at home, I realized I didn’t have any French dressing on hand. But I did have the ingredients to make it! So my first step was making French dressing. To keep a more neutral flavor, the recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I don’t use canola, corn, safflower, or any of those other highly processed vegetable oils. So I chose to use olive oil. (Avocado oil or grape seed oil would be other good choices.)

 

3/4 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup ketchup
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika

 

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend them until smooth. Keep the French dressing refrigerated.

 

 

We all know the jingle: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

The Big Mac has 2 very small beef patties, nasty American (or whatever it is) cheese, and 3 pieces of bread in that bun. It weighs in at 563 calories, which is a lot for a small sandwich.

Although bigger on the calories (740), my sandwich is a lot larger and healthier. My jingle would be: “Two quarter-pound (before cooking) 93% lean grass-fed beef patties, special sauce, locally sourced greens, cheddar cheese, pickles, onions on a toasted brioche bun.”

 

Now that’s a mouthful!

 

 

The final result: a delicious burger. It didn’t really taste like a Big Mac…but it satisfied the cravings…for now!

Quarantine time is a time to try new recipes. So when I got a couple of pounds of ground venison from my buddy, Bruce, an avid hunter here in my town, I started thinking about what I could make with it.

 

 

I didn’t want to go with a venison burger right out of the gate. After all, venison is very lean, containing half the fat of beef, but with more protein. In fact, venison even challenges chicken in the protein department. But being really lean, it would dry out as a burger, so I decided to go with the safer option of making a taco with it.

Well, somewhere in the process of taco making, I thought of pork and beans and said: “Yeah, what if I made something like venison pork and beans? How bad could that be?”

Well, venison and beans can almost be called chili (depending on what rules you have about beans in chili), and I thought: “But I don’t really like chili.” But then I thought: “It’s not chili if I don’t call it chili.” Problem solved!

 

I used small red beans, but you can use what you like.

 

So what I finally came up with is a venison pork-and-bean chili taco…or something like that.

Whatever…it tastes pretty good!

And obviously, if you don’t have venison, you can use lean (like 93%) beef for this recipe.

 

 

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 strips (about 40g) pre-cooked bacon, finely chopped
1 lb. ground venison
Taco seasoning (see the recipe below)
20 grape tomatoes (100g), chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (I like Gulden’s)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Only Lea & Perrins will do)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) of small red beans, not drained

 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking pan with oil spray (I use avocado) and set aside.

In a large pan, heat the avocado oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté the onion until it’s translucent.

Add the chopped bacon, and sauté until some of the fat starts rendering out of it.

Add the pound of venison, and cook until the meat has browned nicely, adding the taco seasoning to the meat as it cooks, little by little, until you’ve used all the taco seasoning up.

Add the chopped grape tomatoes, and stirring after each addition, add the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, and brown sugar.

Pour in the two cans of beans, liquid and all, and stir gently, letting it all come to a boil.

 

 

Pour the contents of the sauté pan into the baking pan, cover it with foil, and place it in the 350-degree oven to cook for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, remove the foil off the pan and cook another 10 minutes.

 

The Taco Seasoning…
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and set it aside.

 

 

Once the venison pork-and-bean chili taco meat has finished cooking, I like to use it in a flour tortilla, with shredded lettuce and a little shredded cheese on top.

 

Shredded lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, some raw Vidalia onion, and a touch of 1000 Island dressing!