Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fish and Chips V2.0- Panko-Crusted Cod, Dill-Caper Tartar Sauce, House Chips

In about the same amount of time it would take to fire up the hotbox and bake some frozen fish sticks, (what is this, 7th grade?) you can make your own- only much healthier and much, much tastier. Version 2.0 is pan-fried vs. deep-fried, fresh vs. frozen, and without all the preservatives and crap. Frozen fish sticks are probably the hot dog of the sea, anyway. What's with the dude in the raincoat, anyway?

Fish and Chips-V2.0- Panko-Crusted Cod, Dill-Caper Tartar Sauce, House Chips

4 servings

Fish sticks-
1/2 C mayo
2.5 TB dill, finely chopped
2 TB chives, finely chopped
1 ts fresh lemon juice
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed
2 TB dill pickle, finely chopped + 1TB pickle juice
1.5 C panko bread crumbs
1 large egg
1.5 lb cod fillets, about 3/4" thick, cut into 3" X 1" sticks
4 TB EVOO, divided
1/2 lemon

House Chips-
1 large baking potato, peeled, 1/8" slices

For the fish-
To assemble the tartar sauce-combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stir well and chill in the fridge until needed. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then season with S&P on all sides. Assemble a two-part breading station with whisked egg in a small bowl and panko on a plate or pie pan. Dip the fish pieces in the egg first, then roll in panko and press gently to adhere. Shake off any excess.

In a large nonstick skillet, coat with 2 TB EVOO over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the fish for about 4 minutes total, turning often, until golden brown. Cover and keep warm while repeating with the rest of the EVOO and the second batch.

Squeeze a bit of lemon on the fish, then serve up with the tartar sauce.

For the chips-
Dry the potato slices well with paper towel or a clean kitchen towel. Brush both sides with EVOO, then arrange single-layer on a sheet pan. Bake at 500°F for 16-18 minutes, rotate the pan halfway through if needed. EEEEEmmediatley upon removing from oven, season with S&P. Large sea salt crystals would be best, kosher would be fine too.

Pairs well with cold beersss.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Italian Meatballs and Gravy

Lemons to lemonade is obvious, but from oregano to meatballs? Culinary inspiration can stem from any and every little thing- it could be a sight, sound, smell, touch, thought, or (obviously) taste, it could be the weather or mood you're in. It could be a Red Lobster commercial, as nasty as that shit is, and then without even knowing it I'm at my fishmonger staring at the lobster tank, looking for the feistiest Mr. Pinchy in there. It might hit from walking past the breakfast joint on the corner, the aroma of bacon or flapjacks on the griddle might lead to some blueberry pancakes or a jalapeno-cheddar-bacon cornbread at home. Sometimes you are baited to create something simple, other times it might take all day. It could be cheap and already in the pantry, it might be expensive and demand a special cut from the butcher.

My inspiration this time was the half-dozen sprigs of oregano from the first share of our CSA. It was a joyous Sunday morning to open that box and pull out heads of red and green lettuce, green garlic, bok choi, purple scallions, asparagus, and honey. That's fresh and local, organic honey, just like everything else off the farm. A time to celebrate foodie happiness with a short version of Sunday gravy, some meaty balls, and a bottle of red table wine. Or two.

You can use any combination of ground meat here- my standard meatloaf/meatball is equal parts ground chuck, ground veal, ground pork. Today it's mild Italian sausage and ground turkey.

This is another perfect recipe for keeping a few portions in the freezer, always ready to be defrosted and then piled on some fresh pasta or packed into a sub roll with some peppers and onions. Who doesn't like a meatball sammich?

Italian Meatballs and Gravy
6-8 servings

For the balls-
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. mild Italian sausage
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 TB fresh oregano or 1/2 ts dried
1/2 TB fresh rosemary or 1/2 ts dried
1/2 TB fresh thyme or 1/2 ts dried
3 TB fresh bread crumbs
3 TB milk
1 large egg, light whisk

For the gravy-
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 TB tomato paste
(2) 28 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 ts dried oregano
1/2 ts dried thyme
1/4 ts chili flake
4 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Make sure your meat is nice and cold, rolling warm meatballs sucks. Remove the casings from the sausage if in link form, if you can't find an lb of ground. If you're using fresh bread pieces, whatever type bread it might be, give it a few pulses in the food pro, until you got little pieces but not to a powder. The pulse button = control. Soak in the milk while combining the other ingredients, or about 5 minutes. You could sub canned bread crumbs if that's all ya got, if so skip the milk bath.

For the sauce-
Coat a large sauce pan with a TB or so of EVOO. Over medium-high heat, saute first the onion for about 4-6 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir the paste into everything and let caramelize for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Being careful not to touch the hot bottom of the pan, reach in and crush the tomatoes by hand, tearing into chunks. Add the Italian seasonings of your preference, then stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with S&P.

For the balls-
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients sans oil and gently fold until well mixed. You can make them whatever size you prefer, just adjust the browning time. I like a large spoon-sized ball, you obviously do want them to be uniform in size. Brown in a large skillet over medium-high heat coated with oil, turning often to ensure even browning. Do not crowd the skillet!! You gotta have room to get in there and turn them on their side, stand up on edge and roll, to get all sides nice and fully browning. Work in batches and toss em in the sauce as you go.

That's some fancy bread right there. No baguettes in the house, so sandwich bread brushed with EVOO and rubbed with a split garlic clove is a solid substitute. Gotsta have some bread with pasta, we don't count no carbs here. Where will the next inspiration come from?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grilled Caprese Skewers with Smoked Mozzarella

The assembly is like this- wrap a lil tomato with a basil leaf, skewer it, then add the hunk of mozzarella. You could find your own way too, if you want to make things difficult or just don't like following directions. I threw these over low direct heat on a gas grill preheated to 300F. 30 seconds on each side is enough to lightly toast. Any more than a half minute will leave you with grates covered with melted mozzarella. That would suck! This would not be time to wander too far...you might be able to open a nice red while they're cooking, that's about it. You can skip the grilling step too, I just think the smoky flavor of the mozz should pay tribute to outdoor cooking, it's your choice there. Plate up and then lightly season with S&P, then drizzle sparingly with EVOO and the balsamic.

Caprese Skewers with Smoked Mozzarella
20 portions

20 fresh basil leaves
20 grape tomatoes
6-8oz. smoked mozzarella, cut into 1"
good EVOO
good balsamic
20 wooden toothpicks

This is the time to break out that 25-yr. balsamic from Modena. You only need a tiny bit, the concentrated flavor goes a long way and should not be overpowering. The S&P, well of course the P is for freshly cracked black pepper and the S, while normally for Kosher, this time you should get all fancy with some fleur de sel or a similar finishing sea salt. Tomatoes without salt? Sheeeeeiiiiiiiit.

Even the grainy camera phone pic can't hide the deliciousness packed into these little guys- the caprese, thank you Capri. You kick ass. You too, summer. You like to party in my mouth and I like it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Turkey Burgers, Thyme Mushrooms, Feta

Ground beef burgers might be the standard, default, go-to dead animal protein you shape into patty form and then place between a flour-based holding device. 80/20 chuck is the perfect ratio to yield nice, juicy burgers. You wanna get further off the hook then it's organic to grass-fed to wagyu or kobe. If you want completely off the moo moo train, I implore you to mix up something a little different, e.g. lamb, buffalo, turkey, even duck. Today, we're here for the turkey....it's $2/ lb. right now, hard to pass that up. WWDD?

Turkey is a great lower fat substitute for anything that usually calls for ground beef- meatloaf, tacos, burgers, it's extremely versatile. You might remember this flavor profile from the turkey-shroom loaf?

With a lower-fat protein like turkey, a little bit of added flavor is much-welcomed to the blank canvas- a bit of herb and mustard. Your favorite mustard is the key option here, whether it be a dijon, spicy brown, grainy mustard, or maybe a horseradish-spiked version. I used a spicy German-style, slightly coarse with whole mustard grains. This burger is dressed simply with tasty fungi and a touch of salty feta, no other accouterments necessary.

Turkey Burgers, Thyme Mushrooms, Feta
3 servings

1 lb. ground turkey, 97% lean
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB shallot, minced
2 TB good mustard
1 ts worcestershire
1/2 ts herbes de provence (or mix of any dried herbs-thyme, oregano)
2 TB feta cheese crumbles
8-10 cremini or whole button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4"
1 TB unsalted butter
1 TB red onion or shallot, minced
1/4 ts dried thyme
1 TB bread crumbs
3 burger buns

In a large mixing bowl, add the turkey, garlic, shallot, mustard, worcestershire herbs, bread crumbs, S&P. Gently mix together and split into 3 portions for 1/3 lb burgers. Prepare the grille to medium-high. Grill for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for 4 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 165F. Grill buns during last minute. Let rest for 5 minutes while preparing shrooms.

In a medium saute pan, melt the butter and add shallot and cook for a hot second, then add the mushrooms. Let the fungi cook and release their moisture for 2-3 minutes, while creating the delicious Maillard protein formation. That means don't touch or disturb, and the most important- don't crowd the pan too much. Sprinkle with thyme and S&P, saute for 4-6 minutes or until nicely browned and in tasty shape.

Turkey and mushroom could be the new black. Of course, pair with an earthy Pinot Noir or your other favorite beverage, then enjoy. This might not replace the ground beef burger, but it's certainly letting it know the monopoly it used to have on the grill is a thing of the past. Turkey- it's not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Panzanella could be Italian for 'leftover' salad. It's probably not, but it is the perfect summer salad to make with any leftover, day or two old bread. At its heart is the genuine taste of summer-tomatoes and basil. A great time to harvest some of my own herbs-the giant container of basil plants are loving the early-summer rain and plethora of warm days in May. The mint is feeling a little crowded, I might have to make some pesto to even things out a little- one night of mojitos could take a fair amount of mint leaves, so they need some time in the sun too.

You could do the usual, pack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll up and slice thinly into a chiffonade, but I like to tear them up by hand-the small ones in half and the large ones a couple times. Since this recipe is created in the 'leftover' style, I think things should be as rustic as possible. Odd, rough cuts are welcome here, no Michelin people at the table tonight. Probably not tomorrow, or next week either, but I'm sure I could coax 1 star out of em.

This recipe has infinite wiggle room- you could add any veggie in here, some bacon or ham or turkey, even lettuce if you want to really call it a salad. If you don't like capers, don't use them. I like the briny saltiness it brings. Below recipe is modified slightly from Ina Garten's recipe, definitely one of my favorites from the Barefoot Contessa, who offers many easy, quick recipes. I just don't like too much talk about Jeffrey, it's sort of creepy. Not as creepy as the Neely's, though. Talk about food porn.

serves about 8 as a side

3 TB good EVOO
6 C french bread, crusts included, 1" cubes (medium baguette)
1 ts kosher
1 seedless cucumber, halved and 1/2" slices (English, hothouse, or deseed a large one)
1 C grape tomatoes, halved (or any other tomatoes if you have em)
1 red bell pepper, large dice
1 yellow bell pepper, large dice
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
handful of basil leaves, about 25, torn into pieces
3 TB capers, drained, if desired
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 ts good Dijon mustard
3 TB white wine vinegar
1/2 C good EVOO
1/2 ts kosher
1/3 ts freshly cracked black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, coat with EVOO and then toss in the bread cubes. Sprinkle with salt and toast until nicely browned, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes. Add the chopped veggies and basil in a large bowl. To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, EVOO, and S&P in a small jar or cup. Shake, whisk, or zap with a stick blender to emulsify. About 10 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes to the bowl and pour in the dressing, then gently combine everything together. Adjust if necessary with S&P. The flavors will combine during the short rest and the bread will soak up some tasty sauce without getting too mushy. Enjoy- this stuff tastes good bout this time of year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flank Steak Tacos with Pineapple-Cilantro Relish

Welcome to the meteorological start of summer, it's June!!
I'm so excited, I just can't hide it. The first pick-up of my CSA share is next week! That is a highly-anticipated event right there, let me tell you. My first CSA, I get to meet my farmers at the market in my hood...how easy is that? To actually know the persons that are growing your salad greens, veggies, and fruit, an entirely new experience that you will probably be hearing about on BLT for the next 20 weeks. They even have farm eggs and chickens! I cannot wait to roast one and compare the difference to a grocery store-bought bird. The highlight of course is eating produce that is in season, negating many bad things-poor taste, many food miles traveled, lack of nutrient retention, etc. Those tomatoes you eat in February from the big-box grocery store suck. They don't taste like tomatoes. I can't wait till the end of summer for those tomatoes. Those are the couple weeks of eating BLT's every day, maybe twice a day, it's fantastic.

Flank Steak Tacos with Pineapple-Cilantro Relish
4-6 servings

1.5 lb flank steak
2 ts ancho chili powder
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 C tequila
1/3 C lime juice, freshly squeezed of course
1/4 C EVOO

1/2 pineapple, rind removed, quartered and skewered
2 TB honey
freshly cracked black pepper
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 TB cilantro, finely chopped (1 TB packed after chopping)
2 TB red wine vinegar
1 TB fresh lime juice
1/4 C EVOO
1/2 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, fine dice (up to 1 whole large if desired)

Trim the flank steak of any large surface fat, if necessary. Lay out on your meat board and cover with a couple layers of plastic wrap. There are many ways to tenderize a tough piece of meat, technique-wise you can use time+ low heat, acidic marinades, and physical persuading. For the latter, I do recommend the little tenderizer hammer thing. If you don't have one of those, small stabs with a fork is okay. Pounding with a skillet is not what you want. That only flattens the meat by forcing the surface area outward, here we want penetration for tasty sauce. So, tenderize by pounding evenly on both sides, then remove wrap. Rub 1 ts of ancho chili powder on each side of steak, then a little seasoning of S&P, then you wanna place in a large, resealable plastic bag.

Combine the garlic, lime juice and tequila. Dip in a TB and take a taster. Just kidding. Mayyyyyybe. Whisk in the EVOO to combine all ingredients, then pour in plastic bag. Work the meat around a bit and seal, ensuring to remove as much air as possible. Marinate for 1-2 hrs in the fridge box, redistributing marinade halfway through by turning over a few times.

In a large bowl, combine all relish ingredients sans first three. Fire up the grille to medium-high heat. Drizzle the pineapple skewers with the honey, then season with a few turns of the pepper mill. My every-day black peppercorns are tellicherry, they give you a very solid flavor that screams fresh black pepper. If you're using pre-ground black pepper, you need to log off, shut down, and go get some corns and a mill. Perhaps here or here, my favorite spice purveyors. Salt and pepper shakers look all cute but like Niemi, say no. Back to the pineapple-grill for 6-8 minutes, carefully turning often. Swear while burning a fingerprint or two. Once you got some grill marks, remove from skewer and dice. Add to rest of relish and taste, adjust seasoning with S&P, more jalapeno too if desired. The honey will nicely tame the tart fruit of the pineapple.

Your meat should have been out of the fridge for about 30 minutes, bringing to room temp before denaturing protein over flame. As always, you don't throw cold meat on hot grill. Remove from the marinade and shake off all garlic pieces, they can burn on the grill and will not be tasty bits. Season both sides with S&P. Kosher salt indeed.

Grill over medium-high direct heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, for medium-rare. MR is the preferred temp for flank steak, you can go longer if desired, however it will be a tad tougher. The photo shows medium as it was requested in that manner for an expectant mother. A little tequila marinade though never hurt anyone.

Is it deskewered or unskewered?

Did somebody say salsa?

After resting the steak for 10 minutes, slice thinly across the grain. Warm up a stack of tortillas on the grill and you can probably figure out the rest. Enjoy with a cold Mexican beer or a tequila shooter. Or both!