Saturday, December 31, 2011
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
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
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
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
Sunday, December 4, 2011
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
|Chicken Parmigiana served with Angel Hair Pasta and Garlic Bread|
Friday, October 7, 2011
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.
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
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
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
Sunday, September 25, 2011
|Grilled Cheese as "Food Porn"|
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
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
|Eggplant Parmigiana over Vermicelli|
Sunday, September 4, 2011
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|
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
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
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
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
|My try at making the famous $24 Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil from Scarpetta in NYC.|
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
|Making Your own pickles is a great way to put all those extra vegetables to use|
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
|Cucumber Salad served with a light lunch|
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
|Pepper and Egg Fritatta served on a Grilled Ham Steak|
Thursday, June 16, 2011
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|
Monday, June 13, 2011
|Grilled cheese - swiss, grilled tomato with herbs, white bread.|
Sunday, June 12, 2011
|Pork Medallions with Gnocchi|
Monday, May 30, 2011
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 Brooklyn Style Pizza|
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|
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
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|
|Bacon bread- need I say more|
Thursday, May 5, 2011
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
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.
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 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
|Easter means hard boiled eggs!|