Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Sometimes, a cool adult beverage is just what you need after a long day of yard work. The cucumber plants in my garden have started producing, so it’s time to make this refreshing cocktail!

 

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.

If you grow your own cucumbers and mint in your garden, this cocktail tastes even better…a fine reward for a job well done!

These 2 recipes are great side dishes for any occasion, and they’re tasty by themselves, or as an appetizer. Feel free to substitute to suit your needs. If you don’t like feta cheese, try Gruyère, smoked gouda, or even mozzarella. Need it to be gluten-free? Use GF breadcrumbs. Don’t have shallots? Use onions or scallions. Don’t like mushrooms? Okay…I can’t help you there…

 

 

1 package large white or brown mushrooms
olive oil
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, through a press
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
fresh feta cheese, cut into small cubes
bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the mushrooms in cold water to clean them. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and set them aside. Rub the mushroom caps with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet, open side-down, in a 400-degree oven, for a few minutes.

In a pan, sauté the shallot and garlic in a little olive oil. Chop the mushroom stems finely and add them to the pan. Season well with the salt and pepper. Add the thyme and pepper flakes. Set the pan aside, off the heat.

Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees after removing the mushroom caps. Flip the mushroom caps over so that they look like little bowls. Take a cube of cheese and place one in each mushroom. Top each with the sautéed shallot mixture. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and sprinkle parsley over that.

Return the baking sheet to the oven, cooking the mushrooms until they are lightly golden in color, and the cheese has melted.

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Mushroom myth: Soaking mushrooms in cold water makes them mushy. Not true! Mushrooms do not soak up any water when left to soak for even 30 minutes. So use your mushroom brush…use your kitchen towel…whatever you like. But I prefer to get them clean simply with cold water.

 

Here’s another recipe…

 

Chopped mushroom stems and cubed cheddar, ready to go.

1 package white or brown mushrooms
olive oil
1/4 of an onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, through a press
1 piece of cooked bacon, finely chopped
1 cup of baby arugula
salt and pepper
mild cheddar cheese, cubed
bread crumbs

 

 

The cooking directions are similar to the recipe above…

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the mushrooms in cold water to clean them. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and set them aside. Rub the mushroom caps with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet, open side-down, in a 400-degree oven for a few minutes.

In a pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the bacon. Chop the mushroom stems finely and add them to the pan. Season well with the salt and pepper. Add the arugula and let it wilt until it’s soft. Set the pan aside, off the heat.

 

Sautéed mushroom mix, ready to go.

Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees after removing the mushroom caps. Flip the mushroom caps over so that they look like little bowls. Cut the cheddar cheese into small cubes and place one in each mushroom. Top each with the sautéed onion/garlic/bacon/arugula mixture. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.

 

The cubes of cheddar fit inside the caps.

 

Return the baking sheet to the oven, cooking the mushrooms until they are lightly golden in color, and the cheese has melted.

 

This is not your average shrimp! Found in the Pacific, from Southern California all the way up to Alaska, as well as Japan and Korea, these beauties, identified by the white spots on the sides of their first and fifth abdominal segments, live up to eleven years.

And here’s an interesting note: each spot prawn (or spot shrimp) spawns once as a male and one or more time as a female!

 

prawns 1

 

Having read so much about them, I ordered a pound and decided that I would get full use of the shrimp by peeling them and making an intensely flavored sauce out of the shells.

Peeling and de-veining was easy: the shells slipped right off the shrimp, and they were so beautifully clean, their were no veins to remove!

If you can’t get  hold of Wild Pacific spot prawns, shrimp or lobster will certainly do. Just remember to ask your fishmonger for wild-caught American shrimp, and not that horrible farmed stuff from Asia. If he doesn’t have it, shop elsewhere.

 

prawns 2

 

For the stock:

1 lb. wild Pacific spot prawns, thawed, peeled, and de-veined. Save the shells and container water, if any.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot
1/2 celery stalk
1/4 onion
1 smashed clove garlic
4 whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons ketchup
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/2 sprig thyme
6 cups water

 

For the shrimp:

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

 

The final touch:

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/8 cup fresh chives or scallions, finely chopped

 

1 lb. pasta

 

For the stock:

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Keep the peeled shrimp in the fridge, covered.

In a pot, heat the olive oil and add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorns, ketchup, rosemary, thyme and shrimp shells. Sauté them for a few minutes to get the flavors going. Add the container water, if any, and 6 cups of water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 2 hours.

Strain the solids out and discard them. Place the stock in a smaller pot, and continue reducing it until about 1 cup of the stock remains.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water and remove it from the water before the al dente stage. (It will cook more later.) Strain it and set it aside.

 

For the shrimp:

Combine the salt, pepper and sugar with the prawns in a bowl and toss to coat them evenly.

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook them until lightly caramelized and almost cooked all the way through. Do not overcook them! Set them aside.

 

The final touch:

In the same large sauté pan that you cooked the shrimp, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the shallot. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic. Sauté for 2 more minutes, then add some of the stock, the shrimp, the pasta, and the butter, and mix well. If it’s dry, add more of the stock until the pasta is coated, but not dripping. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the chives.

 

prawns 3

Serve immediately!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter and I recently had our quarterly “fodder/dodder dinner” at our Providence Capital Grille. Their signature cocktail, the Stoli Doli, reminded me it was time to make a new batch of what I like to think is an upgraded version: my Velvet Elvis.

A Stoli Doli is simply Stoli vodka that has been infused with fresh pineapple. If you sit at the bar at the Capital Grille, you won’t be able to miss the very large jar of freshly-cut pineapple pieces swimming in vodka. They literally pour it “from the tap,” and serve it straight up, like a martini, or on the rocks. It’s delicious, and I’ve certainly had my share of them.

I decided to make my own at home one day, to serve to my friends at an upcoming party. But to my disappointment, I didn’t have any Stoli vodka in the house. (An embarrassment to most Lithuanians.) But…I found a bottle of Stoli Vanil, the vanilla-flavored vodka, and it was a real game-changer! I used that instead of regular Stoli and I came up with a sweeter, smoother drink that is now legendary among my friends.

VELVET ELVIS

2 ripe, sweet pineapples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1.75ml Stoli Vanil

Find a gallon-sized glass jar with a lid. Peel, core and slice the pineapples and drop the pieces in the jar. Pour the vodka in, mix well, and seal the jar. Keep it at room temperature for 7–10 days, giving it a gentle shake every day.

After 7–10 days (don’t worry…a little longer won’t hurt anything), strain it, squeezing the pineapple pieces to get every bit of liquid out. Discard the pineapple pieces. (As much as you might think they would be fun to munch, they’ve given up all their flavor to the cocktail, and taste terrible!)

Keep the Velvet Elvis refrigerated. Serve with rocks (or 1 big rock!), or shaken and poured into a martini glass.

As a martini, or on the rocks!

Since it’s Memorial Day weekend, a grilling blog is in order. And in case of rain, this works indoors as well.

I rarely order beef at a restaurant, because I can usually make a better steak at home. For one thing, I use humanely raised grass-fed beef, something few restaurants offer. And I can cook it for less than a third of the price of a steakhouse. Granted, most steakhouses dry-age their beef, a time-consuming process of taking slabs of beef and keeping them in a fridge for weeks until a certain amount of moisture is sucked out of the meat, intensifying the flavor. I’ve done that at home in my fridge, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

There is one steak that I couldn’t match for the longest time, and that was the Capital Grille’s bone-in Kona crusted dry-aged NY strip. I would have dreams about that steak! It was time to find a way to make something that would satisfy my craving for that amazing steak at home.

Looking at a variety of coffee rub recipes on-line, I started the slow and steady process of combining ingredients in just the right proportions, tasting as I went. What I came up with really accentuated the flavor of the beef I was cooking, better than I had imagined!

 

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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

 

Combine the ingredients, mixing well, and keep them in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

The secret ingredients are the brown sugar and the cocoa. The brown sugar gives the steak a caramelized crust when cooking, and the cocoa rounds out the flavors and gives the beef an extra “umph!”

When using, sprinkle the seasoning liberally on both sides of the steak before cooking. When cooking indoors, I like to add bacon fat to a hot cast iron skillet, searing the steak on all sides, and then finishing it in the oven. But let’s face it: nothing beats the grill!

 

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These pancakes, based on a recipe from chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in NYC), are made from fresh homemade ricotta cheese. Light as air…and really delicious! I’ve made a few batches of fresh ricotta cheese in my day, but when the family has a craving for these pancakes at the last minute, a good-quality store-bought ricotta cheese will do.

 

 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup GF flour if I want to make these gluten-free)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta

 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta,  and egg yolks. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

In a large stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold gently into the batter.

Spray a non-stick griddle with a little cooking spray and drop about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes per side, until golden and fluffy.

pancake

These days, there’s a day for everything, but who knew that May 10th is National Shrimp Day?

Any excuse to make shrimp scampi is a good one, as far as I’m concerned!

I love shrimp scampi, and had the need to satisfy my cravings the other day. But what started as a simple scampi recipe, turned into something a bit more. I may never make scampi the same way again!

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1 lb. wild-caught American shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons Spirgučiai (see below)
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
oregano, for sprinkling

Thaw the shrimp under cold water. Place them in a colander to drain.

Spirgučiai is a Lithuanian favorite: chopped bacon and onions, fried until crisp and usually sprinkled over anything and everything in Lithuanian cooking. I always have some in my fridge, already prepared and just waiting to be used.

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic salt, oregano, onion, pepper and Spirgučiai.  Heat only until everything melts and combines. Don’t let it burn. (If you don’t have Spirgučiai, all you need to do is take a couple of slices of bacon, chop them up, and fry them in a pan until crisp. Keep the bacon and the fat in the pan and then add the butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic salt, oregano, onion and pepper.)

In a small sheet pan lined with foil, lay the shrimp in a single layer and cook them halfway in a pre-heated 400-degree oven to remove the moisture from the shrimp.

Take the pan out of the oven, and drain off the moisture, if any. Pour the butter mix from the saucepan all over the shrimp and toss to coat. Return the shrimp to the oven for a few minutes, until they’ve heated through and are almost completely cooked. (Careful: never over-cook shrimp!)

Take the pan out of the oven, and place pieces of mozzarella on top, garnishing with a little oregano. Set the oven on broil and cook until the cheese has melted.

Slice with a spatula and serve on top of pasta, making sure you get some of that buttery scampi sauce.

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As a low-carb option, you can serve this on broccoli or roasted spaghetti squash.

The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is today, Saturday, May 7th, 2022, and although I’m not a big horse racing fan, I am a huge fan of the official drink: the Mint Julep!

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 them 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!

Great fried shrimp is like sea candy…you just can’t get enough. This recipe is easy and really delicious. I never use anything but wild-caught American shrimp!

This recipe can easily be made gluten-free by substituting the all-purpose flour with GF flour.

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1 lb. wild-caught USA shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 raw egg, scrambled
avocado oil for frying

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Combine the flour, corn meal, Prudhomme seasoning (see below) and salt in a bowl. Set it aside.

Scramble the egg in another bowl and set it aside.

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Remove the entire shell, or leave the tip of the tail, depending on your preference.

Heat a pan with an inch of the oil. When it reaches 325 degrees, it’s ready for frying.

Dip the shrimp in the egg, and shake off any excess. Then toss the shrimp in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Carefully place the shrimp in the pan of oil.

Cook the shrimp for about 45 seconds, flip them over, and cook for another 45 seconds, until they’re golden brown. Don’t crowd the pan and never over-cook shrimp!

Drain them on paper towels and serve immediately!

The shrimp are delicious by themselves, but here’s an easy remoulade to make along with them…

1 cup mayo (I like Hellman’s)
1/4 cup mustard (I like Gulden’s)
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine the ingredients and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

It’s a bit of a cheat, but I find the Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning has great flavor and works really well for this. I also use it on fish: simply pan sauté a filet in butter, and sprinkle on the seasoning. I originally started with the small jar found in most supermarkets, but then quickly graduated to the jumbo size can found online! And, by the way, it is gluten-free.

If you want to make your own seafood seasoning, a combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne will get you a result that’s pretty close to the Prudhomme seasoning.

My buddy, Lee, is in Maine right now, enjoying the limited season of freshly caught scallops. It inspired me to post this blog…
Here in Rhode Island, we have access to amazing seafood year-round. My friend Gary, is a lobster man. My neighbor farms oysters. And for anything else, I go to my friends’ farms: Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI and Wishing Stone Organic Farm and Sweet & Salty Farm, both in Little Compton, RI…great places for veggies, bakery goods, pastured meats, yogurt, cheese, and more.
I was on a mission to find fresh mussels the other day, and in the process, stumbled upon fresh bay scallops, piled high on ice at a local farmers’ market. Unlike like the larger sea scallops or bomster scallops, bay scallops are small and sweet, about the size of a mini-marshmallow…hard to find and my absolute favorites.
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As far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to eat a fresh scallop than right out of the shell with just a little marinade on top, popping these beauties into my mouth literally as they’re still pulsing on the shell.
Scallops are a bit trickier to open and clean than clams or oysters (at least for me) but all it took was a little practice while sipping a Stoli Elit martini and I got the hang of it in no time.
There are two marinades that I use when serving up raw scallops. The acidity in these marinades will cook the scallop a little, like in ceviche, though eating them raw is perfectly fine if they’re super-fresh.
“MILLS TAVERN” MARINADE
The first place I ever had a raw scallop was at Mills Tavern, a highly rated restaurant in Providence, RI. Freshly shucked scallops (in large flat shells) were served on ice with a tangy red marinade. I never got the recipe from the restaurant, but this is my version of that marinade.
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Grenadine
1/2 teaspoon fresh finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped scallions
 Combine all the ingredients and chill before using.
A trick I learned from the folks at Wishing Stone Farm, where they grow their own ginger roots: keep the ginger stored in the freezer in a tightly sealed bag. Most of us don’t use ginger all that much, but we want fresh ginger when the recipe calls for it. By wrapping it tightly in plastic and storing it in the freezer, it’s ready to use any time. Simply take the ginger root out, and grate it finely–no need to peel the skin–while it’s still frozen. It will be almost powder like, and it will blend beautifully into any recipe you’re using. Then just put the rest back in the freezer.
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ALZ CEVICHE MARINADE
My marinade is closer to a basic ceviche, using 3 kinds of citrus and some Asian flavors.
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
2 small dried chili peppers, finely chopped
 Combine all the ingredients and chill before using.

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Both marinades are gluten-free, as long as you use GF soy sauce. La Choy is an easy-to-find brand.