Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Charcuterie Plate

For my Christmas dinner, I started with a little cold antipasti to snack on- I originally intended this to be the the thing to keep everyone busy while I rested and carved the roast- but the guests decided to wait until everything was ready to sit down, which works just as well for me. My antipasto course consisted of a plate of charcuterie and cheese, a selection of crackers to go with it, and another plate of olives and pickles. While it's a nice way to start a meal, it isn't really all that interesting until you hear what and where about half the charcuterie came from...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Collard Greens

I feel that Collard Greens almost have a bad reputation. You see them in almost every grocery store, but, most people ignore them. I think many people consider them either too unfamiliar, or let their prejudices show through, and pass them up as "poor people's food" - at least in my part of the country. Collards, and other bitter greens such as turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and even dandelion greens, are far from deserving of this reputation- they are very nutritious, and very flavorful leaf vegetables when prepared correctly. The southeastern US has the right attitude towards them- they are something that should be embraced on a more regular basis...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Canadian Maple Walnut Pie

A recent issue of Food Network magazine had a pullout section entitled "50 pies"- the idea was to take four very basic pie recipes and produce as many variations on them as possible. The base recipes were an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, a pecan pie, and a chocolate pudding pie. Pecan pie is always one of my favorites, and after reading the article, it seems almost natural that it can have hundreds of variations just by changing the nuts and the type of syrup used. One of the variations on the basic recipe really spoke to me- and seemed to be such a natural and obvious combination that I can't believe I haven't seen it before. Take a generic pecan pie recipe, replace the pecans with walnuts, and the corn syrup with maple syrup, apply a few minor tweaks to adjust the consistency of the custard, and you have a maple-walnut pie...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Char Siu Bao - Chinese Pork-filled buns

So I have a work colleague who is native Chinese, and drives through lower Manhattan on the way to work. The two of us were on the same project this week, and basically spent the last three working days trapped in the same room all day. He's the guy who typically makes the phone call if we're getting Chinese take-out for lunch- not for reason of stereotype, but because he'll order in chinese, and ends up getting us items that are off-menu, or gets us a free side of dumplings or some such treat. In any case, this week he stopped at a shop he knows in New York's Chinatown, and brought in a treat to share with us- those little-known but very good pork filled sweet rolls called "Siu Bao" - and they certainly are a tasty treat!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Turkey Soup with Escarole

Any time you roast a whole bird of any type, saving the carcass and using it to make soup is almost mandatory. Soup-making is an easy way to get the most out of the parts of the bird that would otherwise end up in the trash. Why waste the bony parts when you can easily, and inexpensively turn it into a complete meal. I make my turkey soup different every time- last time, I added cabbage to make it more interesting- this time around I use escarole - a mildly bitter green related to endive, transforming this soup into something similar to a classic Italian Wedding soup.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftover Mayhem- Pasta Shells with Turkey Gravy

This pasta dish is a natural candidate for a post-thanksgiving meal that makes use of the mass quantities of leftover turkey lingering for days afterwards in refrigerators across North America. It is inspired by a simple dish my Mother used to make to use up bits of leftover steak or roast beef. Her dish involved re-warming the leftover beef in a beef gravy, then using the concoction to dress egg noodles. Using the same basic idea, I'm substituting leftover turkey for the beef, pasta shells for the egg noodles, and a fresh turkey gravy made from leftover bones instead of a jar of store-bought gravy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Aftermath - Three Tips for Dry Leftover Turkey

So it's been a few days since you carved up the big bird. When you reheat that once-juicy white meat, though, you're left with something dry as a bone, and quite likely to induce hiccups. Usually, most people just cover it over in gloppy, leftover gravy, or slather on another can of jellied cranberry so they can wolf down the once delicious turkey without ill effect. Your refrigerator is, by necessity, a cool, dry place. In this type of environment, your food is going to start to dry out in any container short of a vacuum bag (and even then, you'll still lose a little). After a few days, you'll probably still have more turkey than you know what to do with, and it's starting to look about as juicy and palatable as an ancient Egyptian head-of-state after a few thousand years in bandages. There is hope though- there are options to resurrect that near-mummified turkey in your fridge and return it to some semblance of it's former glory...

Friday, November 25, 2011

The "Morning After" Sandwich - Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers are a staple of the American diet in late November- some families may have enough leftover turkey and trimmings to make several days worth of meals out of. "Heat it and Eat it" is always a good option- but two or three meals later, it gets boring, fast. Here I walk through a simple idea for a hearty leftover sandwich. This sandwich is a meal in itself, and is starchy enough to help soak up all that excess alcohol the next morning for those of you who indulged in a little too much wine on the big day...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 - Thinking about Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving dinner is the biggest meal of the year for your average foodie. I, however, am not cooking it. Actually, I rarely cook Thanksgiving dinner- usually we eat with relatives. I did not cook a thing- not even the pies  for dessert. I do usually get asked to carve the turkey- I don't claim to be great at it, but I usually do a passable job. I did, however, have the responsibility for choosing the wine. The problem is, aside from having some semblance of a palate, I am not very knowledgeable about wine, so I took a few best guesses...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rigatoni with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe - Gianna's, Carlstadt, NJ

Gianna's is an interesting-looking Italian restaurant located in a fairly large business district in the shadow of Giant's Stadium. While another restaurant not far down the street was notoriously featured on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Gianna's is about as removed from that kind of attention as you can manage. The food is classic Italian, and is made with all the attention to detail and quality of ingredients as you would expect. Their dining room is attractive, comfortable, and well maintained- when compared to the business/industrial area surrounding it, you'd think you stepped into an entirely different world.

This restaurant is located very close to my day job, and I really don't know why I never tried it before. My selection was a classic dish that's been a favorite of mine since my youth- Rigatoni with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. The slight bitterness of the sauteed greens balances perfectly with the smoky notes from the grilled Italian Sausage, and a little grated parmesan ties the whole thing together. This dish represents all the things that are best about rustic Italian cooking- start with high quality, fresh ingredients, treat them in a simple way, and place them in simple combinations. This dish is made of three main components that have very little done to them- letting their quality and freshness speak for themselves - I wouldn't have it any other way. I also have to mention that their fresh bread is excellent- fresh, warm, crusty, and a perfect accompaniment for a plate of pasta.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole- Old School Style

Few things say "comfort food" like the classic macaroni and cheese. I'm not talking about that weird, artificially colored stuff that comes out of those little cardboard boxes. I'm talking about old school style macaroni and cheese, baked in the oven in a casserole dish, with some nice crunchy stuff on top. This is my variation on the way my own mother used to make it- this version isn't really over-the-top gooey and cheesy as most- this version is more dry, and the real developed flavors come from that little bit of crunchy topping, and the bits around the edges that brown up and caramelize a bit. The same recipe can easily be adapted to produce something very creamy and cheesy, but there's something about  this proportion of cheese to macaroni that does it for me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marge Simpson, Food Blogger!

Food is a common topic for The Simpsons- with Homer's known addiction to donuts, and the old favorite "Chili Cook-Off" episode, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see food lampooned on the show. This time around, it's Marge and the kids getting involved in food culture- but it's less about the food than it is about poking fun at this whole sub-culture and cult of personality we've built around food-oriented television, and the celebrity chefs featured in them.

I'll let the preview clips from the episode "The Food Wife" - which will be airing on 11/13/2011 speak for themselves (below the jump). It's all in good fun- I'm sure you'll find them as entertaining as I do.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pecan Pie with Chocolate Ganache Topping

Pecan pie is a classic southern dessert. A sweet, gelatinous filling studded with flavorful pecans- the ones at the top are nicely caramelized adding even more flavor- sweet and decadent, it is easy to see why it is many people's favorite. It is also remarkably simple to make- and like many other simple ideas, small variations can have a huge effect on the outcome. My favorite way to modify the simple pecan pie is to add a layer of rich, chocolate topping- a simple idea to enhance a simple dessert...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The fall season is pumpkin season. Pumpkin carving is always a fun family activity, and while most pumpkins used for carving are not great choices for turning into pumpkin pie, their seeds make a simple, tasty seasonal snack. The pumpkin seeds have a nutty flavor when roasted, that can hold up well to a wide variety of seasonings.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Linguini with "Pancetta" and Radicchio

So I mulled over what to do with that glorious package of fat-heavy pork trimmings I picked up at the grocery store this week for quite some time. While there was quite a bit of fat, there was also a fair amount of meat- in fact, it seemed to be about the same ratio of fat to meat as most bacon. I don't have a smoker set up, so I can't technically make real bacon, but I can make something more like Italian Pancetta- which is simply salt and spice cured pork belly that isn't smoked. I hesitate to call it actual Pancetta, since I'm not starting with pork belly, just fatty pieces from around the loin, I'm not rolling it up, and I'm only curing it for about a day rather than for a few weeks- so I'll call it "Pancetta" for lack of a better term. The idea I came up with is to use this semi-cured fatty pork in a pasta dish...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pork Fat Rules!

I've been seeing more and more offal type meat selections showing up in the meat section of my local grocery store- items like beef heart, marrow bones, tripe, beef or pork  neck bones, shanks, oxtails, pigs feet, and even chicken feet. It also seems that a lot more people are buying up these less expensive cuts of meat- in fact, I've been eyeing up the $2 packs of pork trimmings for some time now, but you practically have to fight people off to get your hands on one if you shop during busier hours.

Given the uncertain economic climate these days, it should come as no surprise that meats that would normally sit on the shelves untouched are gaining popularity. This is, in part, thanks to the fact that everyone is cutting costs any and every way they can. I also chalk it up to the influence of the celebrity chef phenomenon- more people are aware that the stuff most people throw out is not only inexpensive, but also packed full of flavor even more so than the so-called luxury cuts of meat. Perhaps the television personalities, such as Chris Cosentino (a.k.a. @offalchris on twitter), have done us all a valuable public service by showing us that offal can offer cost effective menu options that, with a little skill, care, and technique, can easily rival, or even outdo the so-called "good" cuts of meat.

What will I do with my generous pile of pork fat... I don't know yet, maybe cure for a a few hours as if it were a pancetta, then slice it into ribbons and saute it as part of a pasta dish? Maybe I'm onto something here...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When life gives you Apples, Make Applesauce

I don't know about you, but applesauce was almost a kitchen staple when I was a kid. It was that go-to extra side dish- many meals ended up following the pattern "meat-starch-vegetable-applesauce" unless it was one of the frequent pasta nights.  As an adult, I've passed by applesauce more often than not. This week, however, I just couldn't think of something interesting to serve with pork chops- until it hit me- we have extra apples, most of the family likes applesauce on pork chops, and fresh applesauce beats the canned stuff any day of the week. So clearly, it was time to break my applesauce drought...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Simple Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Peas

My family, despite being about as Italian-American as it gets, never had a tradition of making Gnocchi. They were something I knew existed, but never really paid much attention to until fairly recently. Thanks to the magic of television, and the ascendancy of cooking shows over the past fifteen years or so, Gnocchi gained my attention- these light, savory, pillows of pasta earned my respect quickly. I've had gnocchi out at a few restaurants, either as a main dish with a light, fresh tomato sauce, or sauteed with prosciutto and radicchio as a side dish that outshone the main entree... but I've never made them for myself, never even attempted it. This was a grievous omission that I could not let stand any longer, so tonight's dinner was a simple potato Gnocchi tossed in brown butter with peas.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Classic Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana served with Angel Hair Pasta and Garlic Bread
Just about anything tastes great when it's fried, then smothered in tomato sauce and gooey, melted cheese. That's the theory behind all of classic parmigiana dishes. The two best known are Eggplant Parmigiana, and, of course, Chicken Parmigiana. These are flavorful Italian American comfort dishes that are almost universally enjoyed. They're great the first time around- served as part of a dinner, or on a nice crusty sub roll. They keep well in the refrigerator, and are, in some people's opinions, even better as leftovers. We've discussed Eggplant Parmigiana before, now it's time to focus on the Chicken...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Breaking the rules "No Cheese on Fish" - Tuna Salad Grilled Cheese

My long-lost Sicilian Grandmother would put the evil eye on me for this one... One of the most well known "rules" of Italian food culture that was drilled into my head was "No Cheese on Fish" - this grilled cheese sandwich thumbs its nose at this rule. Take a standard grilled cheese sandwich (in this case wheat bread, with white american cheese) and add a little tuna salad, and you have a messy (in a good way) sandwich that flys in the face of tradition.

My tuna salad is standard canned tuna with a little mayonnaise. I add a small pinch of cayenne pepper to wake things up a little, and a good dose of dill weed - the combination really brings out the briny, seawater flavors hiding in that usually boring can of tuna. The mayo and the cheese meld together into something thick and sloppy, but tasty. No cheese on fish indeed! The richness of the cheese balances the ocean brine flavor in a pleasing way. Proof that "rules" are best regarded as "guidelines" rather than as gospel!

Meatloaf Revisited

Am I repeating myself? Yes I am, I posted a meatloaf a while back, but this one is a little different. My previous meatloaf followed my mother's recipe fairly closely, this time, I'm taking a slightly different track- it's one of those common, everyday meals that is simple enough that anyone can make- but at the same time there are an almost infinite number of subtle variations on the same idea.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dr. Atkins' Nightmare - Pan Fried Breading

This little fried side dish/treat is about as far from diet friendly as you can get. It's a little treat my mom used to make using the leftover breading and egg whenever she made any breaded fried foods, such as chicken parmigiana. It's a big chunk of starch and egg, pan fried until golden brown. The very thought of it causes practitioners of the old, anti-carb Atkins diet to run screaming. The rest of us, just tuck in and enjoy the indulgence...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grilled Cheese with Southwest Grilled Chicken

I've mentioned several times that I have a mild obsession with Grilled Cheese. Something so simple and easy to make, that has infinite variations is intriguing to me. Also, anything with a gooey, runny, cheesy center makes great Food Porn...

Today's brunch/snack was a basic grilled cheese on wheat bread with american cheese. To make things interesting, I tossed a few pieces of leftover grilled chicken on the grill to give it a little color, and seasoned it with salt, pepper, a shot of tabasco sauce, and a little chili powder. The richness of the cheese balances out the spicy notes, and the little bit of acidity from the vinegar in the tabasco adds a little brightness to all the fats from the cheese and the butter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brasitas - Norwalk CT

Mariscada Caribena
I recently had the good fortune of taking a business trip in good company. The trip went well, and for me, one of the highlights was getting together to go over the plan for the next day, and generally talk about what's going on back at the office. One of my co-workers suggested a small Latin Fusion restaurant called Brasitas- and it turned out to be a great idea.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grilled Cheese + Pulled Pork = Food Porn

Grilled Cheese as "Food Porn"
A well-formed brown crust, oozing cheese, a saucy pork filling, all melding together and drooling on the plate... The humble grilled cheese never disappoints when it comes to alluring food photos- even for a mediocre photographer such as I.

Today's lunch was a simple grilled cheese sandwich- store bought slices white bread, swiss cheese, and about a tablespoon of leftover barbecued pulled pork. The sauce from the pork makes friends with the cheese, and produces something greater than the sum of it's parts when encased in a crunchy, yet still slightly chewy bread shell. Next time I make one of these there will be a little cole slaw on it too... oh yes, there will be cole slaw...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hoagie Hut - Bridgewater New Jersey

Hoagies, Subs, Grinders, Heros... there are many names, but they all translate to "really big sandwich." New Jersey is one of those places that has a long tradition of great hoagies/subs/whatever. The New Jersey style hoagie has a few distinguishing features- but they are probably not all that unfamiliar to people from other areas.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana over Vermicelli

Eggplant Parmigiana over Vermicelli
If you've been paying attention to this blog, you've probably figured out that I am about as far from vegetarian as you can get. Even so, there are a few vegetarian dishes that I enjoy so much that I don't miss the meat- which is, I think, the hallmark of a great vegetarian meal. The classic Eggplant Parmigiana is probably the best example of this, in my opinion. It is simple in concept, but surprisingly difficult to execute. It is also a dish close to my heart, for a variety of reasons...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Picnic at VFW Post 7164 - Avenel, NJ

Our food adventure for the weekend was a family trip to the annual Labor Day Weekend picnic at a nearby VFW post in Avenel, New Jersey. We've been going to this picnic for the past several years, and they always have plenty of simple, but good food to go around. This year, I made an effort to sample a little of everything- not that I consider that a hardship...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fennel Scented Pork Roast

Fennel Scented Pork Roast
Well, we survived Hurricane Irene's relentless onslaught on the northeastern US with no appreciable damage. We were very lucky- some of the neighbors did not fare so well- with problems ranging from downed trees, to power outages. Less than a mile down the street was where some of the worst flooded areas of the state began. We were very lucky.

My poor vegetable garden, however, was not so lucky. Few of my plants survived, and the ones that did  probably won't have time to produce any more fruit. My fennel plant in particular, was doing well, but ended up broken and mostly uprooted, so I needed to find a way to make some use of it rather than discarding it altogether. I also had a pork roast in the freezer, and a limited selection of other groceries to work with until the roads re-opened, and the (flooded) local grocery store re-opened, but something good was well within reach- and, personally, a big juicy hunk of pork is a great way to celebrate our good fortune.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Owner of Geno's Steaks in Philadlphia dies at age 71

71 year old Joey Vento, owner of Philadelphia's legendary Geno's Steaks passed away this Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. Since 1966 Geno's has become a Philadelphia landmark, known for their version of Philadelphia's signature street eats- the Cheese Steak.

The Cheese Steak was actually invented at Pat's King of Steaks, whih is, incidentally , across the street from Geno's. Geno's, however, has claimed to have perfected the Cheese Steak, sparking off a bitter rivalry between the two neighboring eateries for over 40 years. Whatever you think on the subject, there's no denying that Joey, and Geno's have played a huge role in shaping the food culture of the city.

Joey Vento himself gained his share of media attention over the past few years after being featured on the Travel Channel several times, and for his controversial posting of a sign instructing patrons to place orders in English only. Whatever you think of his ideology, it will be that classic combination of bread, steak, onions and cheese (or cheese wizz) that he'll be remembered for.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Penne with Beef Neck

I've noticed recently that I've been seeing more of the less popular cuts of meat at the local grocery stores, and that people have actually been buying them more frequently (someone beat me out to a big package of cheap pork trimmings on my last shopping trip!). The reality of the economic times we live in seems to be bringing back some of the tricks our parent's and grandparent's generations used to stretch their grocery dollar, and make the most out of the more readily available cheap cuts of meat rather than the massive luxury cuts that most people consider the norm today. With that in mind, I though of all the odd bits of unusual meats that would randomly turn up in mom's Sunday gravy from when I was a kid, so I grabbed a nice big package of beef neck bones, and started getting ideas on how to use it, and apply a few new tricks with a tried and true pasta dish.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Berkeley Sweet Shop, Seaside Heights, NJ

Imagine a carnival that never closes, and never picks up and moves on to a new town. Now imagine that carnival  stretched out along a beach in one of the most populated areas of the country. The place you'll see in your imagination should resemble many of the popular small vacation towns that dot the New Jersey Shore. The Boardwalks of these Shore towns are the centerpiece- huge pedestrian malls that are part main street, part carnival, and part tourist destination. It's hard to imagine visiting such a place without bringing home a few treats...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A $24 Plate of Spaghetti...

My try at making the famous $24 Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil from Scarpetta in NYC.
Most people first knew Chef Scott Conant as the "judge who hates raw onions" on the food network's hit competitive cooking show "Chopped" - where he gained attention after scolding a chef-contestant for repeatedly serving him raw onions despite being told that it was a bad idea. A few other Food Network appearances made it clear that Chef Conant was much more than an onion-hating ogre- apparently his restaurant in New York City, served a simple dish of Spaghetti with tomato and basil with a $24 price tag- a price that people pay happily and come back for more.

Chef Conant is not secretive about his simple, but wonderful recipe, and there are enough videos and descriptions out on the internet to reconstruct it. So, armed with the first batch of tomatoes from my garden, and a few nearly overgrown basil plants in need of a trim, I set out to try my hand at it...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home Made Dill Pickles - A First Experiment

Making Your own pickles is a great way to put all those extra vegetables to use
So my backyard garden is producing cucumbers at an alarming rate. We've been eating quite a few of them, and even gave a few to our neighbors, but it's clear that we will have more cucumbers than we know what to do with. There is one thing that can help preserve all these great fresh cucumbers, and put them to good use later- I guess the saying should be- if life gives you cucumbers, make pickles! (OK, so that's not the saying, but you get the idea). I've never made pickles before, but the process is fairly simple if you have a a lot of cucumbers, a few basic pantry items, and the right mix of spices. After hunting around for some information about pickling, I found a general process that's easy enough to be a starting point for what will probably be a whole summer of pickling...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Simple Fresh Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad served with a light lunch
As a kid, vegetables of any kind (even ones that were actually a fruit...) were a hard sell. There were few that I would eat, and it was nearly impossible to convince me otherwise, unless you dumped a gallon of cheese sauce on it. I also came from a family that always had a backyard garden- so we typically had fresh cucumbers (among other things- I would actually pick and eat string beans raw even though I only tolerated them cooked). My mom used to cut up the cucumbers and make a very simple salad from them, that I actually liked. A big part of that was the fact that the cucumbers were typically picked about 60 seconds before being served- even kids can tell the difference between fresh, quality produce, and the cheap stuff that's been sitting around too long.  Here's my take on Mom's simple cucumber salad...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peppers and Eggs (technically it's a Frittata)

Pepper and Egg Fritatta served on a Grilled Ham Steak
One of the things my mother used to make frequently was what she called "Peppers and Eggs" - which was a little odd since it also contained potatoes, and sometimes leftover sausage too. This is basically a fritatta - an over-sized, open faced, omelette that is generally served in slices like a pie or quiche rather than whole - almost an egg pie with a variety of fillings. My mother's version was basically a way to make a meal out of a few leftover baked potatoes and/or leftover sausages combined with some freshly sauteed onions and peppers. The version I'm describing here is meant as a side dish, or a companion to a piece of meat (or just as breakfast by itself!). I'm focusing on the vegetables and potatoes, so if we serve it with a piece of meat - such as a grilled ham steak- we have a complete and filling meal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Heavy Metal Vegan Chef ?!?

Finally, something I can post both here AND on my hard rock/heavy metal blog at the same time...

Check below the break for a video of the Heavy Metal Chef whipping up vegan food. I'm no vegan, but when you cook to Dimmu Borgir, Six Feet Under, Iron Maiden, and Styper!?, you've got my attention. It's actually a pretty informative segment, and the "evil" heavy metal references are firmly tongue in cheek.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gemelli with Sausage in Olive Oil

Gemelli with Sausage in Olive Oil
Pasta may seem like a boring, plain, overused thing to most people. In reality, it is a blank canvas that can easily be made into an almost infinite variety of excellent dishes. The only limits are your imagination, your sense of what flavors work well together, and what you have in your pantry/freezer/garden. Ironically, most good pasta dishes are fairly simple- a few good quality ingredients are all you need.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grilled Swiss with Tomato on White Bread

Grilled cheese - swiss, grilled tomato with herbs, white bread.
In my previous discussions about grilled cheese, I try to point out how easy it is to forget the importance of the quality of the bread. Here, I throw that idea out the window, and make the cheapest, most basic, store bought sliced bread into something special...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Old Man Rafferty's - Hillsborough, New Jersey

Pork Medallions with Gnocchi
Today my two daughters had their dance recital, and a few family and friends came out to see them- so we felt it was a great opportunity to take everyone out for dinner. Luckily, there's a local restaurant that serves well crafted, yet comforting food at a fair price (and has a killer selection of desserts) called Old Man Rafferty's.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Grilling Adventures...

So our memorial day grilling session was relatively simple this year- just a few burgers and dogs. The great thing about burgers and dogs is that the fun part is what you put on the bun with them- the meat portion is the easy part...
Burger with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and tobasco-spiked mayo

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zio's Trattoria Pizzeria - Hillsborough, New Jersey

Zio's Brooklyn Style Pizza
It's been raining here in New Jersey for about a week straight- almost non-stop. So while today wasn't exactly the most pleasant day, it is the first time in a long time when there were not buckets of rain falling from the sky, so we took the kids to the park to play for a while, then stopped off for a little lunch.

Zio's Trattoria Pizzeria is a place we've been to a few times, and it's quickly become a favorite. Today we tried something we didn't notice the last few times we were there- the Brooklyn style pizza. And it was well worth the trip!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grilled Cheese with Tomato on Bacon Bread

Grilled cheese with tomato on Bacon Bread
Grilled cheese with tomato and bacon is one of those classic combinations that everyone loves. So when you have a fresh batch of my Infamous Bacon Bread, this combination is just going to happen sooner or later. There's enough bacon flavor in the bread to be a good base without adding more bacon (not that more bacon is ever a bad thing!).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rotini with Chicken and Snap Peas - made from leftovers

So you have a brick of frozen tomato sauce taking up space in the freezer left over from the Sunday Gravy. You have a mixed bag of leftover odds and ends in the fridge. You also have a box of pasta, and maybe 30 minutes to get dinner ready before the kids start having a meltdown... this is the answer...

Pasta dishes are a great way to turn a pile of leftovers into a good meal

Infamous Bacon Bread - not suitable for cardiac patients

Bacon bread- need I say more
If you have a prescription for medications such as lipitor, you should probably dose up before reading further. This is not "heart healthy" eating we are about to indulge in. Eating this stuff on a regular basis may actually shorten your lifespan, but you'll enjoy it so much that you probably won't care. This is...the infamous bacon bread.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bologna Grilled Cheese on Garlic-Herb bread

There's something about a bologna and cheese sandwich that speaks to the kid inside us- it definitely speaks to my kids since they ask for them all the time. So if you, like me, are still in touch with your inner child, and have a documented mild obsession with grilled cheese sandwiches, a grilled bologna and cheese is bound to happen sooner or later.

Bologna and Cheese gets all grown up with some home-made bread and a hot grill

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Quick Flank Steak Fajita Dinner

So it's nice to be able to simmer a meal one the stove all day. Slow cooked comfort food reeks of homey goodness that hard to describe. The reality of modern life, however, means that it's not practical to prepare long-cooking dishes on a regular basis. This is why Rachael Ray was able to make a career out of hacking together meals in 30 minutes or less.

My "quick" dinner this past week was a quick and simple flank steak fajita, with rice and beans on the side.

Slapping together a few simple components can still come out greater than the sum of its parts

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baked Ziti

Baked pastas are a great comfort food that even kids love. Pasta in a tasty sauce baked with cheeses until gooey on the inside and a little crusty on the outside. They may take a while to cook, but are fairly easy to assemble, making them a staple in most American households. The most straightforward, and easiest to assemble (an coincidentally, one of the most popular) is baked ziti.

Baked Ziti is one of the most popular baked pasta dishes

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hard Boiled Eggs for Easter

Easter means hard boiled eggs!
We've all done them a thousand times- or at least every Easter weekend. Most of us have discovered that something that seems as easy as hard boiling a batch of eggs is a great deal more difficult we first thought. It is very easy to end up with a batch of undercooked eggs with soft spots, eggs that refuse to peel easily, or eggs that are just overcooked and have that unpleasant looking layer of greenish stuff on the outside of the yolk. Maybe your eggs have exploded or cracked in the pot and leaked messy egg white all over the place. There are a thousand things that can go wrong with such a simple idea as boiling a few eggs...