Baking is science and I don't like formulas, but cooking is art and anything goes...and the simpler the better. It's all about less time at the stove and more time at the table. With a forty year passion for food I'm excited to share what I do in the kitchen nearly every day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shrimp Cakes

Looking for that special appetizer for the holidays, think shrimp, here’s a bit of Cuisinart magic.  To the Cuisinart add a chopped garlic clove, fresh minced ginger, two chopped scallions, some chopped cilantro, a few slices of minced jalapeno, a squeeze of lime, then some hot sauce, kosher salt, and pepper to taste…pulse until pasty.  (If you're lacking some of the fresh ingredients you could improvise with some Asian condiments, hoisin, black bean paste, curry, or fish sauce.)  Then add an egg and a pound of shelled raw shrimp, I like the IQF easy peel variety.  Pulse until the shrimp is coarsely chopped, not mushy.  Pour out into a large bowl, mix with two cups of panko bread crumbs, form into small patties, and fry up with a small amount of oil in a large pan.  I served them with a cilantro lime sauce that I made intin the cuisinart like I would a pesto using cilantro leaves, oil, salt, hot sauce, and lime juice.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Turkey Soup

Don’t throw out that turkey carcass!  The post holiday dinner turkey coma is a tough one to overcome but what I like to do is break the carcass into pieces and seal them in a zip lock bag with whatever other bones are leftover and throw them in the freezer.  I was so excited to rediscover my Thanksgiving turkey carcass last weekend, perfect for a winter Sunday soup.  In a large pot I coarsely chopped and sautéed a large onion, half a dozen carrots and celery stalks along with some coarsely ground black pepper.  Once the vegetables began to brown I placed my assorted turkey components in the pot and filled with enough cold water to submerge all. After bringing to a boil I lowered the heat to a slow boil and let reduce for two hours. 

At this point I removed the bones with a pair of tongs and added some additional chicken stock concentrate to taste, I prefer Better Than Bullion.  A jar of stock paste only costs a bit more than a box of liquid stock, yields four times the amount, and will last in the fridge for months and months.  A much better way to go and you are always sure to have stock on hand.  Anyway, once cooled I pulled whatever meat I could find from my carcass and added it to my simmering soup along with a bag of arugula, a couple of cans of white navy beans, and some leftover chicken meatballs.  But just about anything goes, rice, noodles, spinach, cabbage, or some cooked sausage…and the smell of your house will make that Sunday afternoon on the couch reading or watching football that much better.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sausage Appetizer

This was a last minute pot luck appetizer, would work with just about any sausage.  I grilled the sausage in a frying pan over high heat until both sides were nicely browned.  With a pair of tongs I took the links out one by one and on my cutting board sliced them into chunks before returning them to the pan.  Once I could see they were cooked through I added two heaping tablespoonfuls of my favorite hot and spicy mustard, tossed for a minute then plated them with a slotted spoon so as not to pickup too much of the grease.  A little green onion for garnish.  Instead of mustard a spicy tomato sauce or a mixture of honey and hot sauce would work as well.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Italian Meatloaf

I go big on this one so there’s always lots leftover.  Preheat oven to 375 then mix together with your hands in a very large bowl: two pounds of burger, one pound of ground sausage, five or six cloves of chopped garlic, two cups of breadcrumbs or panko, a cup of basil or parsley, a chopped sautéed onion, two cups of grated mozzarella, a teaspoon or more of ground black pepper, even more of kosher salt, and a half a cup of tomato sauce saving the remainder of the jar to top your meatloaf after cooking.  Once thoroughly mixed stir in three lightly scrambled eggs then form into a four inch high by five inch wide loaf on a sided cookie sheet.  Cook for an hour to an hour and a half then top with the heated tomato sauce.  Try chorizo or a spiced sausage instead to add some spice, or sub a basil or arrabiata sauce, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Teriyaki Wings

Its football as well as party season and wings make for a great appetizer, not sure why I don’t think of making them more often, super easy.  The day before I placed my wings in a shallow baking dish with a marinade of soy sauce, my favorite teriyaki sauce, crushed garlic, Sriracha hot sauce, white pepper, salt, and a little honey.  I pulled them out of the fridge the next morning and turned over each wing so they would marinate evenly before barbequing them that afternoon.  Make sure you watch your heat and keep an eye on them as they will flame up easily…as you can see from my wings.  You could also bake them for half an hour then finish them off under the broiler.  For a dipping sauce I started with a small bowl of sour cream and kept adding Sriracha hot sauce until I reached my desired hotness, a little salt never hurts either.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Asian Tuna "Milanese"

This is a tasty seafood twist on the classic.  Have your fish market slice the tuna into quarter inch slices, skin on.  After salt and peppering each slice I grated some fresh ginger into a small bowl of soy sauce and added a little bit of sesame oil and rice vinegar to make a vinaigrette.  I poured some vegetable oil into a large pan and let heat up while I coarsely chopped a couple of cucumbers and some grape tomatoes.

For the breading I dusted each tuna steak in flour, dredged in a few lightly scrambled eggs, then coated with panko.  Once the oil is hot you only need to cook for a couple of minutes on each side, tuna is best when it’s served rare.  While my tuna was frying I tossed the cucumbers and tomatoes in a bowl with my vinaigrette then plated and topped each steak with a generous portion before serving. This is also an amazing way to cook swordfish, maybe substitute with an arugula and tomato salad with a lemon vinaigrette.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Porcini Mushroom Soup

This Porcini Mushroom soup has a lot of flavor and with just a touch of cream is far from filling.  To start I’ll soak a generous handful or two of dried porcini mushrooms in a large bowl of hot water then quarter and thinly slice a half dozen medium to large onions.  If you can’t find porcinis nearly any dried mushroom will do.  While the mushrooms are soaking I’ll sauté the onions in my soup pot with half a stick of butter for about a half an hour, continually stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot until they are brown and caramelized. 

Next I’ll grind in some fresh pepper, stir, then pour my liquid from the mushrooms into the soup pot along with some additional water depending on how many you are serving.  Save the porcinis for later.  After bringing to a light boil I’ll add some beef stock, my favorite is the Better Than Bouillon paste, and continue to let simmer and reduce for upwards of an hour.  You could also use the Better Than Bouillon Mushroom stock or a combination of both which is what I like to do. 

At this point I taste to see whether it needs some more stock and if so add and turn down the heat to a simmer.  I’ll give it ten minutes then run my stick blender through the broth to get rid of whatever onion pieces are still around then add just enough heavy cream to make it silky.  Give it another ten minutes then add salt to taste along with the chopped porcinis.  It’s best to make a few days to a week ahead of time then refrigerate or freeze.  Grating a little pecorino or parmesan over the top just before serving is a nice touch for the holidays.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Pestos

The days of fresh basil are over for a while but that doesn’t mean you have to stop making pesto, winter greens work just as well.  For this version I used Swiss chard but kale, turnip, or beet greens would have all done the job, the key is to remove the major veins of each leaf then blanch and drain them thoroughly before adding them to the pesto. 

While the greens are draining I chop a generous handful of pine nuts or almonds in my Cuisinart along with a large peeled and coarsely chopped garlic clove and a dash of Kosher Salt.  Use a spatula to scrape the mixture back into the bottom of the Cuisinart before adding the drained greens.  With the cover on I start the Cusinart and drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil through the opening in the lid until the mixture is smooth but not runny.  I recommend that you add the oil slowly and keep checking the consistency…you can always add more oil. 

Finally I add a quarter cup of grated parmesan, a squeeze of lemon juice, additional kosher salt to taste, and one more quick pulse to stir it all together. This time around I tossed the pesto with my cooked pasta, some roasted cubed butternut squash, and a dozen tiny grape potatoes I dug out of the bottom of the basket at the last farmer’s market but it would have been just as great with the pesto alone or combined with just the roast squash.  I think it’s safe to say that you can throw just about anything in the Cuisinart with garlic, olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese and it will be really good. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot and Spicy Squash

Whether it's Delicata, Butternut, or Acorn, one way to prepare squash that I never get tired of is to roast it with butter and maple syrup.  However, this time around I added a minced jalapeno to my Delicata and the sweet spicy thing was real nice, not too hot at all.  After cleaning the squash I halved them to remove the seeds, cut into chunks with the skin on then placed them in a roasting pan and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  They were soft and starting to brown around the edges after about fifty minutes at 375 and at this point I added a quarter stick of butter, a couple splashes of maple syrup, and a minced quarter of a jalapeno pepper.  Once the butter melted I tossed to coat the squash evenly then returned to the oven for another ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turnips and Leeks

Anything with browned onions is good, and turnips are no exception.  I had just picked up some leeks so while boiling my peeled and cubed turnips I sliced and sautéed several in butter until they started to brown careful not to let them burn.  At this point I turned down the heat and added some more butter and kosher salt.  After draining my cooked turnip cubes I added them to the pan with the leeks and mashed slightly leaving them somewhat chunky.  The buttery, salty, sweet turnip thing was a super tasty combination…we don’t eat turnips often enough.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Soup with Parmesan

Sometimes you just need a bowl of chicken soup and that’s why I always have a jar of chicken stock paste in the fridge, I prefer Better Than Bouillon.  Last night after dissolving some of the stock into four cups of boiling water I added some linguini noodles that I broke up into quarter lengths, cooked for ten minutes, then threw in some chopped spinach I happened to have around.  Arugula, carrots, celery, or scallions would have worked as well, but no need for too much, best to keep it simple.  But the key to making this ordinary looking bowl of soup amazing is to stir in a quarter cup of grated parmesan before serving, half a cup is even better.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Radish, Apple, Arugula Salad

Here’s an unlikely combination and a great one for the season.  Thinly slice equal amounts of radishes and apples and combine with some loosely chopped arugula.  Toss with cider or white Balsamic vinegar, some extra virgin olive oil, and kosher salt and white pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Turkey Burger

I never thought I’d say this but I had the most amazing turkey burger last night, and I know what you’re going to say but I think it’s because I baked it…350, about seven minutes a side.  Into my ground turkey I mixed chopped garlic, a half cup of panko bread crumbs, kosher salt, pepper, and a scrambled egg.  After I formed the patties I placed them on a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment.  I flipped the burgers after about seven minutes and spread a spoonful of spicy tomato sauce over the top of each.   After another five minutes I added a slice of fresh mozzarella and baked for another few minutes when I saw the cheese was completely melted.  I served them on a toasted English muffin but a baguette would have been better. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mushroom Pizza with Truffle Oil

I’m hooked!  Someone gave me a small bottle of white truffle oil as a gift a while back and I’ve found it an incredibly easy way to make a pizza or pasta dish a bit more out of the ordinary.  For my mushroom pizza I sliced and sautéed my mushrooms along with a few chopped scallions and some garlic until they were slightly soft.  After lightly covering my rolled out pizza dough with some shredded pecorino I spread out the mushroom mixture and garnished with a little kosher salt before baking until crisp.  Then, just before serving I sprinkled it all over with the truffle oil.  Did the same sort of thing for an appetizer the other night but instead of spreading the mushroom mixture on a pizza dough I spooned it onto lots of baguette slices and served it at room temperature…very fancy…but not really.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roasted Carrots and Fennel

Speaking of's a great combination, carrots and fennel.  It really makes a difference in a simple dish like this to spring for the organic or farmer's market carrots.  Preheat your oven to 400, cut up your carrots and fennel bulbs, toss in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and ground white pepper then pop in the oven.  I like to stir them around a bit after 30 minutes, total cooking time 50 minutes to an hour...and maybe add a couple of chopped garlic cloves five minutes before you pull it out.  A little more kosher salt wouldn't hurt either.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Potato Olive Soup

It’s soup season and for a change I jazzed up my first potato soup of the Fall with some chopped olives, great combination.  Start by sautéing a couple of chopped onions in a soup pot until they are soft then add four or more cubed potatoes and fill with enough water to cover.  Before bringing to a boil add a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon or your favorite chicken stock and a generous amount of ground black pepper.  Once it comes to a boil turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft.  At this point I like to taste the broth and decide how much more chicken stock and kosher salt to add before simmering for another five minutes or enough time for the chicken stock to dissolve.  Next, I run it in batches through the cuisinart transferring the soup to a second pot.  Time for the chopped olives, add several heaping tablespoons or more of prepared or freshly pitted and chopped kalamata olives and simmer for another ten to twenty minutes so they can impart their flavor.  Eat up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Salmon Couscous

Was trying to be a little Moroccan on this one.  I first dusted my skinless pieces of salmon with salt, cumin, and five spice powder and cooked for a few minutes on each side in a straight sided pan.  I could easily have used ginger, garam masala, cayenne, or curry powder instead, just depends what you have around.  After removing the salmon I added some additional oil to the pan and sautéed a chopped onion and several celery stalks with a heaping tablespoon of jarred minced ginger, a few chili pepper flakes, and some kosher salt.  Once browned I poured in a few cups of water, some halved cherry tomatoes, a teaspoon of curry paste and some Better Than Bouillon fish stock, a couple of jars of clam stock would have been fine instead. 

I used kale this time around but spinach would have worked, and since kale takes a while to cook at this point I added it to the stock and let it simmer for half an hour.  About ten minutes before serving I threw in a handful of Kalamata olives, some shucked corn that I found in the back of the fridge, juice from half a lemon, the salmon filets, and salt to taste.  I served with plenty of broth over Israeli couscous and garnished with chopped green scallions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brussel Sprout Salad

I wasn’t actually a big brussel sprout fan until I tried them raw, now it’s a staple veggie in our house.  After peeling away any brown outer leaves I shred them individually by holding the stem end and slicing them thin, about a sixteenth of an inch thick, right down to the base.  Then it’s just a matter of tossing them with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt.  Parmesan is also a great addition and this time around I found a quarter bag of sliced almonds in my pantry so I threw those in too….great crunch.  I plan on about four sprouts per person but unlike a typical salad they are great the next day so no problem over shredding.  Give them a try…I guarantee you will be very surprised.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tomato Soup

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, what could be better on a cold rainy day?  Reason enough to keep a can of crushed tomatoes in the pantry.  This time around I heated up a splash of oil with some fresh chopped rosemary before adding the tomatoes to the pot but definitely not necessary…I just happen to have some around from a lamb dish the night before.  After heating up the crushed tomatoes I added a cup of chicken stock and let it simmer for five minutes before going at it with a stick blender until silky smooth.  Then salt and pepper to taste, that’s it.  Don’t forget to dip.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fresh Corn...Hot or Cold

The local corn is amazing this time of year and there are so many ways to enjoy it…hot or cold.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  After shucking I cut off any excess cob so the wide end is flat on the bottom.  Then holding the narrow end of the cob with my left hand I stand it upright in a deep salad bowl and with a chef’s knife slice the kernels from the cob top to bottom.  It’s best to try and cut them away whole by making sure you are slicing fairly close to the cob.   I love tossing the kernels fresh from the cob with a little bit of olive oil, minced shallots or onion, and kosher salt, then roasting it at 400 for 45 minutes…it’s best when you start to see some browning on the edges of the kernels…so sweet.  It’s equally delicious with olive oil and kosher salt but when serving it cold I often add one or two other ingredients such as mint, scallions, tomatoes, green peppers, basil, basically whatever you have in your veggie drawer.   Take advantage of the season and start shucking!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gnocchi with Chicken Meatballs and Pesto

This one is all about the chicken meatballs, no frying and a nice change from the traditional beef and pork meatball.  Preheat your oven to 350 and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a small bowl add a half a cup of milk to a cup of panko bread crumbs and let sit.  Saute a couple of finely chopped shallots and three cloves of garlic then put in your Cuisiart with approximately two pounds of chunked boneless chicken thighs and one pound of breasts.  Pulse until it is the consistency of hamburger then combine in a large bowl with a cup of grated parmesan, some chopped parsley or scallion tops, a lightly scrambled egg, ground pepper, a generous helping of kosher salt, and the soaked panko.  Thoroughly stir the mixture then roll with your hands into one to one and a half inch balls and set them on the cookie sheets.  Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes rotating the trays about half way through. 

For this dish I combined my cooked meatballs with a basil pesto and some dried store bought gnocchi that I just had to boil for ten minutes.  Other times I’ve added the meatballs to a pot of marinara and served them over ziti or spaghetti, melted mozzarella over them for a meatball sub, or added them to a chicken or potato soup.  They’re even amazing cold right out of the fridge the next day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Open Face Tomato Melt

My lunch today exemplifies the saying that sometimes the simplest things in life are the best…or in this case, the tastiest.  In Vermont we only get tomatoes this good for a couple of months a year, but the Cabot Cheddar and artisan bread are available year around and the combination is pretty awesome just plain.  Or if you want to get fancy you could top with bacon, mushrooms, kalamata olives, or whatever leftovers you have around from last night's dinner.  After putting a little bit of oil into the pan I grilled the bread on one side, flipped it, then covered it with some shaved cheddar…that’s the secret, putting the cheese on the just grilled side so it melts before your bread burns.  Once the cheddar melted I laid down my sliced tomatoes and topped with some kosher salt.  Could have also done it in the toaster but I don’t think it’s as good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ricotta with Basil

I had twenty minutes last night to come up with an appetizer for a potluck board meeting and pulled this one off with five minutes to spare.  In a bowl I mixed together a pint of my favorite locally made ricotta, a large handful of freshly chopped basil, and more extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt than you think you will need.  Keep tasting as it’s hard to remove the salt once you’ve crossed the line, but the salty crunch is what makes it really good.  I served it up with a sliced baguette.  It’s also nice to drizzle some additional olive oil over the top just before serving.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Roast Vegetable "Ratatouille"

It doesn’t get much easier than roasting vegetables and it’s a great way to warm up the house this time of year. This combination of cherry tomatoes, corn, and eggplant is a great one for both flavor and texture.  With the oven on 450 I cut my eggplant into quarter inch slices, cut my corn from the cobs, and stemmed my tomatoes before tossing them separately with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and salt.  In separate dishes I roasted each for approximately 45 minutes to an hour until the eggplant was cooked through.  I quartered the eggplant slices then tossed them in a bowl with the cooked corn, tomatoes including juices, some fresh basil, a small pour of Balsamic Vinegar, and Kosher salt and white pepper to taste.  I think the tomatoes are critical but the possibilities of what you could combine them with are endless.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tomato Bread Salad

This as an oldie but very goodie, fresh tomatoes, basil and stale bread.  I had a third of a baguette hanging around for a few days so I sliced it into half inch slices then cut each slice into sixths.  Then it was just a matter of combining my tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt.  This is one of the few salads I dress ahead of time so the water from the tomatoes and olive oil have a chance to soak into the stale bread pieces.  You could also add some minced garlic, chopped scallion, or a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, but your salad will only be as good as your tomatoes…and they aren’t any better than they are right now.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Caesar Corn

It’s sweet corn season in Vermont and not sure what made me think of it but this combination of Caesar dressing, parmesan, and sweet corn I made for dinner last night was incredible, I’ve been reminiscing about it all day.  I blogged about barbequed corn back in July so what this posting is all about is a super easy fail proof Caesar dressing.  In an empty Ball or peanut butter jar add one whole egg, a chopped garlic clove, an anchovy or squeeze of anchovy paste, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and a half inch of extra virgin olive oil.  Insert your stick blender so it’s resting on the bottom of the jar and blend on high while slowly lifting the blades up through the mixture.  Once it starts to thicken add another half inch of oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and lemon juice, then blend for another ten to twenty seconds.  You could probably use the same technique in a blender or Cuisinart but I've never tried.  Regardless, it’s important to let it sit for fifteen minutes before serving.  You will never buy another bottled Caesar or go to the trouble of whisking again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Arugula Pesto

There’s so much you can do with a fresh pesto whether it’s basil, mint, chive, or arugula like the one I used over and over again last weekend.  And with a bit of Cuisinart magic they take less than ten minutes to whip up.  I first pulse until fine a generous handful of pine nuts(walnuts or almonds work in a pinch), a large peeled and coarsely chopped garlic clove, and a dash of Kosher Salt.  Use a spatula to scrape the mixture back into the bottom of the Cuisinart before adding a full bag of arugula.  With the cover on I start the Cusinart and drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil through the opening in the lid until the mixture is smooth but not runny.  I recommend that you add the oil slowly and keep checking the consistency…you can always add more oil.  Finally I add a quarter to half a cup of grated parmesan, additional kosher salt to taste, and one more quick pulse to stir it all together. 

I served it with grilled salmon the first night, tossed it with a thinly sliced strip steak for a potluck appetizer the second night, and combined it with some quartered sun gold tomatoes and topped my egg tacos for Sunday brunch.  Even had enough left over to smear on a sliced baguette for an afternoon snack.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chop Salad

This is the time of year when we open the fridge and are lucky enough to find a huge variety of fresh vegetables, and there’s no better time for a chop salad.  For a late Sunday lunch last weekend I chopped up a bit of almost everything I had around, carrots, half a fennel bulb, a salad turnip, some scallion, a cucumber, a few radishes, some arugula, and some corn I cut right off of the cob.  I even chopped up a couple of left over chicken thighs from the night before.  Nearly anything would have worked, romaine, green beans, peppers, endive, peas, cabbage, jicama, or zucchini.  Aside from a lot of crunch the key I think is to chop everything up small enough so that you get a lot of variety with every fork full.  I dressed it simply with some extra virgin olive oil and lemon, but again, any dressing would work.  And of course kosher salt and pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fried Flounder with Sriracha Mayonnaise

This one is really about the Sriracha Mayonnaise.  Don't get me wrong, I love my crispy panko coated flounder but what makes this dish special is the sauce.  If you haven't discovered Sriracha chili garlic sauce already go out and get yourself a bottle immediately, it's available everywhere and easy to spot with its distinctive green top.  I use it right out of the bottle on sandwiches, tacos, and eggs, in sauces, and as I did here, stirred together with some mayonnaise for an amazing condiment.  Perfect for anything fried, even french fries.  For the flounder I dusted each fillet with flour after sprinkling with salt and pepper, dipped them in egg, and then coated with panko before frying in a small amount of canola oil.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hummus, Feta, and Arugula Salad Plate

I love talking food and one of the key things that consistently comes up in conversation is what you have around your kitchen in the way of ingredients.  This salad I made for lunch yesterday is nothing special but it highlights several of the items I'm sure to always have on my shelves.  My favorite store bought hummus, pita in the freezer, kalamata olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, arugula, lemon, and of course, extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt.  They are all extemely versatile and best of all keep for a long time.  You're only as good as what's in your kitchen, stock up.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Watermelon, Tomato, and Feta Salad

Summer is the best for quick easy salads and this combination of sweet, acidic, and salty is incredible.  Simply combine one inch cubes of seedless watermelon, large chunks of tomatoes, feta cheese, chopped mint and chives, then dress with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.  You could substitute basil and scallions just as easily, whatever you have around.  This is a great one!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Basil, Tomato, and Mozzarella Pasta

I came home from the farmer’s market last weekend with some beautiful little tomatoes, a sure sign of August.  Last night I used them to make a tasty pasta by combining them with basil and mozzarella, so fast and simple but always so good and summery.  While boiling the pasta I cut a Maplebrook Fram mozzarella ball into quarter inch cubes and with about a half a cup of extra virgin olive oil I put them into a large bowl and sprinkled with kosher salt.  I halved lots and lots of tomatoes, put them in with the cheese, then coarsely chopped a generous amount of fresh basil and set it aside.  After draining I put the steaming pasta into the bowl and let it sit for a minute so the heat of the pasta had time to slightly soften the cheese and tomatoes at the bottom.  Finally I tossed in the basil, some grated parmesan and added a bit more olive oil, kosher salt, and white pepper to taste.  Tomato season, one of the best times of year to be in Vermont.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sausage, Ricotta and Basil Orecchiette

I've been making this recipe for years and it never fails, so simple and a bit different than most pasta dishes.  I start by sautéing two quartered and sliced Vidalia onions and two garlic cloves in a large pan with extra virgin olive oil.  At this point I drop my orecchiette pasta into boiling water although any smaller shaped pasta would be great, farfalle, ziti, or campanelle for example.  Then, with a sharp knife I slice through six Italian sausages making sure to split the casing from end to end so that it can be easily removed.  I crumble the sausage meat into my pan with the onions and garlic and as they cook try to break up as many of the larger pieces of meat as I can with a metal spoon.  In less than ten minutes when my sausage meat is cooked through I test the mixture and add kosher salt and pepper to taste.  After draining my pasta I drop it into a large bowl, top it with the onion and sausage mixture, a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil, a 16 oz. container of the best ricotta you can find (I used Mablebrook Farm), and a generous handful of chopped basil.  I mix until the ricotta evenly coats the noodles and serve topped with some grated parmesan.  It's that easy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wasabi Chicken Salad

Just discovered a great new condiment while visiting Maine last week, Gold’s Wasabi Sauce.  That’s right, the horseradish people.  Had served it with our leftover lobster and loved it so much I bought a bottle at our local market as soon as I got back to Vermont.  For lunch today I added a few squirts to some mayonnaise and it did wonderful things to my otherwise simple chicken salad;  last night’s cubed chicken thighs, celery, scallion, and tomato.  Give it a try, another versatile condiment to keep on the door of the fridge.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Veri Veri Soy Steak Tips

Home cooking is all about the condiments as few of us have the time to spend the better part of a day preparing a meal.  As I see it nearly anything that easily enhances a dish is a condiment, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, soy sauce, olive paste, hot sauce, chicken stock, spices, curry paste, chopped ginger, it’s endless.  My house is full of them, and what’s great is that most last for months in the pantry or in the fridge.  One of my favorites is Soy Vay’s Veri Veri Teriyaki, an amazing marinade for barbequed meats.  It's in a blue and white bottle and widely available.  You can use it on chicken, fish, or any cut of meat, but I especially love it with steak tips.  As it’s such a thick sauce I usually pour a puddle into a glass bowl then add a few dashes of soy sauce to thin it slightly.  You could also jazz it up with some fresh garlic, hot sauce, or sesame oil depending on your mood.  With my hands I toss and coat my steak tips in the marinade and let them sit for at least an hour before grilling.  So good, just the right amount of salt, sweet and spice and most importantly, really easy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

White Beans with Garlic and Basil

White cannellini beans are something I always have a couple of cans of in the pantry as there’s so much you can do with them in a pinch.  Last night I served them warm with garlic and fresh basil.  In my Cuisinart I minced two garlic cloves with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a few pinches of kosher salt.  I drained the beans of all but a small amount of their liquid and added them to the mix with a few grinds of white pepper.  If I were going to serve them cold as a spread I would have blended them until smooth while drizzling the olive oil in through the top of the Cuisinart, but for this one I just hit the pulse button quickly a couple of times and transferred them to a small pot over low heat.  I prepared the rest of my dinner and just before serving I stirred fresh chopped basil into the beans, tested to see if they needed more kosher salt, then transferred them to a serving bowl.  The clincher is to drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil over the top.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pepper, Olive, and Ricotta Pizza

I’ll go for months without thinking about that frozen pizza dough ball I keep in the freezer, and regret that it’s been so long every time I use it.  The great thing about pizza is that anything goes as far as toppings; whatever leftovers, half eaten vegetables, or canned delicacies you can scrounge out of your fridge or cupboards will work…you don’t even need cheese if you don’t have it.  The hard part is remembering to take the dough out of the freezer in time for it to defrost.  I start by turning my oven up to the maximum so the pizza stone that’s always hanging out on the bottom rack has time to get really hot.  With a little bit of flour on the counter I cut the dough ball in two with a bread knife and with my rolling pin flatten one half.  I stretch the dough out as much as I can with my hands and work it some more with the rolling pin, especially along the edges where it tends to be thicker.  It ends up being about the same size as my pizza peel.  After placing it on the dusted peel I spread a half a dozen spoonfuls of Rao’s marinara evenly over the dough.  Last night I sautéed an onion and some red and yellow pepper slices for five minutes and added those to my pizza with some sliced Kalamata olives and several dollops of our local Maplebrook ricotta…and a light sprinkling of kosher salt.  I’ve really got to remember to make pizza more often.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spaghetti with Sausage Marinara

It was so beautiful here in Vermont yesterday I opted to go for a kayak rather than go to the market after work and didn’t get home until after eight.  It’s for times like these that I make sure I always have a couple of jars of Rao’s Marinara, fresh parmesan, and a variety of pasta on hand.  I dug around and found a package of hot Italian sausage in the freezer and some mushrooms in the fridge…perfect.  I put the frozen sausages on the bbq over low heat with the cover closed until they began to soften up at which point I turned up the heat and grilled them evenly on all sides.  Before pouring the Marinara into my pot I added some extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of red chili flakes, and after a minute to give enough time for the chili flakes to impart their flavor I threw in my mushrooms which I had cut into thick slices.  It took about five minutes for the mushrooms to soften and I then added the jar of sauce.  With the sausages nearly cooked I pulled them off the grill and put them right into the sauce where they simmered for about five minutes at which time my thick spaghetti was cooked and drained.  The possibilities for this are endless, bacon, canned garbanzo or white beans, frozen peas or edamame, sliced olives, capers, anchovies, pesto, ingredients I always like to have around.  But the key is to always have the Rao’s and pasta in the pantry.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roast Potatoes with Garlic Scapes

I made these potatoes with garlic scapes as they are so abundant and affordable this time of year but I could have easily used scallions, leeks, or sliced onions.  They are pretty awesome on their own as well.  I tossed the scapes in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and some fine salt and put them directly on the barbeque on low heat and closed the lid.  I flipped them every few minutes to avoid burning and removed once they were brown and soft all the way through.  For the potatoes I cut in half and again tossed in olive oil and some fine salt and place directly on the grill with the lid closed.  Once they were browned on both sides I turned off the back burners, slid the potatoes to the back away from the direct heat, and let them roast with the cover closed until soft, about twenty to thirty minutes.  Along with the scapes I cut them into large chunks and tossed with olive oil and kosher salt.  It's summer, no reason to turn on the oven to make potatoes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Patty Melt

I had forgotten how good a Patty Melt could be but made one last night that made me sorry I had gone without one for so long.   What could be bad about a hamburger on grilled cheese with caramelized onions?  I quartered and thinly sliced two onions and sautéed them on medium heat with some salt and a little bit of sugar.  In the mean time I got the grill going, formed my burger patties and threw them on.  In a separate fry pan I melted a mix of butter and olive oil and when it was hot enough I laid down my slices of bread.  Someone once told me that the secret to a perfect grilled cheese was to grill the bread on both sides, and they were right.  I flipped the bread and laid down my slices of Cheddar Cheese on both my tops and bottoms.  By this time my onions were browning up and my burger was ready to go.  I set the burgers on the bread with cheese then topped them with a pile of caramelized onions, a squirt of ketchup, and the other slice of cheesy bread.  After letting them ooze together for a minute or two on each side I served them up with a salad.  Incredible!  Would be so easy to change them up too, add some flaked chili peppers or mushrooms to the onions, fresh arugula, or olive bread.  But this may be one of those things that is best left unaltered.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steamed Mussels

These mussels make for a great appetizer or meal, they’re so easy to do I brought the ingredients along and made them at a friend’s house the other night.  Start with a couple splashes of extra virgin olive oil and a large pot, heat, and sauté two finely chopped shallots.  After a few minutes add several cloves of chopped garlic and sauté for another five minutes.  At this point add enough dry white wine to barely cover the onions and garlic, doesn’t take much, and keep on medium heat until the liquid reduces by half.  If you don’t have any wine it isn’t critical, just skip to the clam broth.  I prefer, Better Than Bullion, but Snow’s bottled clam broth will work.  Add two cups of the broth and bring to a boil, turn the heat down slightly and leave at a light boil for a few minutes so the liquid reduces some allowing the flavor to intensify.  Taste and add salt, pepper, or a squeeze of lemon accordingly.   Put the mussels in the pot and cover, I figure a half pound per person for an appetizer and a pound for a main course.  A pasta pot can handle around five pounds at a time.  When the mussels have opened and feel nearly firm, about ten minutes, turn down the heat to low and add a half of stick of butter and a handful of chopped parsley.  The butter is optional but it really makes all the difference, but at this point you could also substitute a little curry paste and coconut milk, or Dijon mustard with a little bit of heavy cream.  Cover, let the butter melt for a few minutes, then empty everything into a large bowl and serve with a crunchy baguette so none of the broth goes to waste.  You could even serve them over some angel hair pasta.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbequed Corn on the Cob

It’s grilling season, why bother turning on the stove when you can just throw everything on the grill…including your corn on the cob.  Couldn’t be any easier, simply shuck the corn and put it on the grill.  Adjust the heat of your bbq so that the kernels brown slowly and turn the corn every few minutes for ten to fifteen minutes total.  You want to go for a consistent look on all sides without burning, a little is okay.  They’re delicious as is, smothered in butter, or covered in lime juice with chili powder; anything goes, I love them smeared with mayonnaise and a heavy coating of parmesan.  Salt is always good.  Last night I rolled them in a basil pesto. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fennel, Plum, and Pecorino Salad

Fennel is one of my all time favorite ingredients, I most often just chop it up raw into a salad with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and salt.  I was feeling pretty summery last night so in addition to the olive oil, lemon, and salt I added sliced plums and shaved pecorino.  A bulb of fennel goes a long way, two bulbs can feed four with leftovers.  I find the easiest way to prepare it is to cut off the stubs at the top of the bulb then slice in half the long way and peel off the rough outer layer.  From there it lays flat on your cutting board so you can easily chop it into thin slices right down to the base.  Makes for a great side dish in a matter of minutes.

Israeli Couscous with Carmelized Onions

When it comes to mouth feel Israeli couscous is up there, and extremely diverse and easy to work with.  Although called couscous it is actually little toasted balls of pasta so like pasta you just have to boil it for ten minutes or so and drain.  Last night I sliced and quartered three Vidalia onions and sauteed them with a mix of butter and olive oil, a tablespoon of sugar and kosher salt to taste until they started to brown.  I tossed and turned the onions for about thirty minutes so they would carmelize all over, that's where you're going to get all the flavor.  Meanwhile I brought a small pot of water to a boil, added a spoonfull of my favorite beef stock for flavor, Better Than Bullion, and dropped in the couscous.  I tested the couscous after ten minutes to make sure they were soft then drained into a strainer being careful to preserve about a half a cup of the beef stock water.  I poured the preserved beef stock into the pan with the onions, simmered for a few minutes, then added the drained couscous and salt to taste.  If you're doing Italian you could prepare the same way minus the beef stock with lots of grated parmesan stirred in before seving.  The possibilities are endless.

Garlic Scape Sauce

A traditional scallion ginger sauce is a wonderful thing and I have been serving one based on Momofuku's David Chang recipe with barbequed meats for a while now....Cuisinart magic.  I had bought a bunch of garlic scapes at the Waitsfield Farmer's Market last weekend and thought they could make for an amazing substitution, minus the ginger.   I chopped up the scapes and put them in the cuisinart with some kosher salt, a splash of rice vinegar, even more of white vinegar, a spash of soy, and some white pepper.  I started up the cuisinart and drizzled some olive oil into the mix through the hole in the top until the sauce had thickened up and most of the larger chunks were gone.  The Neill Farm skirt steak was a special treat but the garlic scape sauce put it over the edge, indescribable.  I recommend making more than you think you'll need because everyone will want seconds and thirds....followed by a breath mint or lemon sorbet (see below).

Lemon Sorbet with Strawberry Coulis

Just because I don't bake doesn't mean I can't do dessert.  We had some strawberries that my wife Robin had picked from her garden a few days before that no one was going to eat so I cut off the tops and threw them in the cuisinart with a tablespoon of sugar, eight to ten fresh mint leaves and a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar.  Ran it until it was very smooth, nearly a minute, then refrigerated it for an hour.  So good spooned over our local Blue Moon Lemon Zest sorbet, the perfect finish to our summer bbq.