Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pizza Pasta Salad

It's now unofficially summer time, being post-Memorial Day. A lot of things define summer- like a cold glass of fresh lemonade, the beach, humidity, bike rides, farmers markets, lightning bugs, and towards the end of the season, tomatoes. And pasta salad! You should have a couple recipes in your repertoire, the variations of course endless. Sometimes there's a theme, sometimes it's just the kitchen sink of half-eaten veg and leftovers. This time the script is written by a perennial favorite food- pizza.

Every ingredient in this recipe is to taste- add as much meat, cheese, oil, or seasoning as you like. Throw in a couple anchovies if you like, whatever you thinkn would taste good. Don't even measure, just get after it.

Pizza Pasta Salad
6-8 servings as side

1 lb pasta- rotini, fusili, bow tie, etc.
2 medium bell pepper, cored, halved, cut in strips
1 medium tomato, seeded, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
2-3 ounces pepperoni, halved
3-4 oz mozzarella, diced
3-4 oz sharp cheddar, diced
1 TB red wine vinegar
1/4 C EVOO
1 ts Italian herbs, or oregano
red chili flake (optional)

Cook pasta the usual way- in a rolling boil of salted water- until al dente. Drain and quickly rinse with cold water. Add a few shots of EVOO, stir and set aside to cool.

Combine all ingredients, mix well, stash in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Dish cold or at room temp.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lamb Chops with Rosemary Syrah Pan Sauce

Wouldn't you normally choose what to eat and then what to drink? First, select your entree, and then pick a wine to accompany your meal? Sure, that sounds typical. Or perhaps you could go the other way once in a while, you know, when the opportunity presents itself. Like finding a nicely discounted Côtes du Rhône Villages, a delicious medium-bodied red. Damn bottle fell into my cart! I don't know what happened?!? Good wine deserves good food, so this was begging for pairing with something tasty.

You've probably had the varietal Syrah or what them Aussies and Kiwis call it, Shiraz. Same grape, different name. It's one of a few select (french laws, of course) grapes blended to make Côtes du Rhône. Well, actually up to 23 select few.

Like Italian with a Chianti Classico. Champagne with oysters. Sauternes with foie gras. Port with chocolate. It's Syrah with lamb. Lamb and Syrah (or Côtes du Rhône) are very good friends. Good, yummy friends.

Never made lamb? Not even these super easy guys?

Want to learn more about Côtes du Rhône?

Lamb loin chops look like miniature t-bones- do not forget to dry them to develop a good sear

Lamb Chops with Syrah Pan Sauce
2 servings

4 lamb loin chops
EVOO or veggie oil
2 large shallot, diced (bout 2 TB)
1 clove garlic, diced
1 TB tomato paste
3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 C good Syrah, Shiraz or Côtes du Rhône
1/4 C low sodium chicken stock (optional)
1.5 TB cold butter, diced
1 TB good balsamic vinegar

Bring your lamb chops to room temp before cooking, 10-15 minutes out of the fridge. Pat dry with paper towel, then season with a healthy pinch of S&P. Preheat a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add a touch of canola or veggie oil to the lamb chops. Put a good sear on the first side and cook for about 4 minutes, then 3 minutes on the flip side. That's for medium-rare to medium, depending on the exact thickness of your chops- don't cook past medium, I recommend medium-rare. Remove from the heat and tent with foil to keep warm.

Turn down the heat to medium, add a bit more oil and then the shallot. Cook until softened, a couple minutes, then add the garlic, rosemary and the wine. You can add a splash of stock as well, if desired, to bring some flavor. Deglaze the pan and scrape up any fond with a wooden spatula, you can't leave those tasty bits behind, that's the heart of the sauce right there. Bring to a high simmer and reduce until halved, about 3-4 minutes. Season minimally with S&P, then remove from heat and add the butter and balsamic. Don't forget to add any juices from the resting chops. Stir up a bit, the sauce should be nice and shiny, thickened just a bit, will thicken more upon cooling. Sauce up a plate and then add your delicious little lamp chops, 2 per person. Serve up with a starch and something green.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spicy Pickled Radishes

Do you like things a little spicy? You should make these. If you've never pickled something, it's easy. Instead of messing with actual canning, boiling water baths, all the set up and get up, you can go the route of the quick, or refrigerator pickle. A quickle, if you will.

A lot of veg can be pickled- radishes, cauliflower, peppers, and obviously cucumbers. These spicy radishes can be used all over the menu, from plain to sliced thinly in salads, or as nice touch to a lunch spread of cured meats, cheeses, crackers and grainy mustard.

A note about bulk density- have you ever seen a recipe for kosher salt and you just substitute 'regular' or table salt? You might think you don't need the texture of kosher, so what? Cause you just oversalted your dish, as 1 TB of table salt is a lot more salt than 1 TB of kosher salt.

Spicy Pickled Radishes

1 bunch small red radishes, washed and trimmed
1/2 C very hot water
1 TB kosher salt
1 TB white sugar
1/2 C distilled white vinegar
3-4 sprigs thyme
1 large jalapeno, stemmed and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

Find a couple empty pickle jars or something similar, ensure that they are clean, of course. Add your radishes, garlic cloves, jalapeno and thyme to the jars. Dissolve salt and sugar in hot water, then add vinegar. Add to jars as full as possible, it helps if you pack them tightly, as you don't want anything floating too far out of the pickling liquid. Toss in the fridge for at least 24 hrs, turning a couple of times during that time.

These should last for at least 10 days, probably two weeks, but they'll get eaten up quicker than that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shrimp Pad Thai

'Why would you want to make that when you can order take-out?' That was a good question, I thought, thinking that from my roof, I could probably see at least 4 places that serve up some good pad thai. But trying something unfamiliar in the kitchen is always a learning experience, most of the time fun, and usually tasty. Oh, and this recipe is super easy and super quick. 10-15 minutes for your mis en place, 10 minutes to cook. Yep, that's quicker that take-out.

Every now and then you come across that recipe that you might like to try, but it calls for some obscure ingredient, like quinoa or tamarind. Same with chervil or Pernod. Or fish sauce, an Asian staple. I've never had that in the pantry before making this pad thai, plenty happy about acquiring some. Always good to have these things when making that dish where you throw everything you have left in the pantry/fridge in the skillet, apply some heat and see what happens.

As always, the quality of your ingredients will determine the tastiness of the final product. Good quality shrimp are key, I like mine shell on and deveined, usually at the grocery store I get the frozen shrimp, of course the best option would be to hit up a good spot like the fish guy, or your favorite local fishmonger. The noodles were from Thai Kitchen, seemed to be most non-generic available. So many bright colors in the 'ethnic' aisle. And of course, use fresh limes. You're not squeezing some watery, nasty liquid from a green plastic bottle shaped like a lime, are you? Of course not. An easy way to juice cold limes from the fridge- nuke em for 45s to loosen things up.

Shrimp Pad Thai
2-3 servings

8 oz pad thai noodles or rice noodles
2 TB fish sauce
2 TB light brown sugar
1/4 C fresh lime juice, 2-3 limes worth
1 large or 2 medium serrano peppers, stemmed, thinly sliced (include seeds and ribs)
3-4 shallots, thinly sliced, bout 1C
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2" piece of fresh ginger, minced, bout 1 TB
10-12 oz shrimp, shelled and deveined, medium size
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 scallion, halved and then sliced lengthwise twice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 TB dry roasted peanuts, lightly toasted
1/2 C bean sprouts
handful cilantro, chopped
canola or veggie oil

Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice to a small bowl and whisk together, set aside.

Place noodles in a large bowl or pot, cover with hot water. Let loosen up for about 5-7 minutes, then drain and set aside. During this time cook the shrimp in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, using canola oil. Cook for 1 minute on each side until pink, then remove and set aside.

Turn down the heat to medium, add a bit more canola oil, then the shallots. Cook, while stirring here and there, for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 1 minute, then toss in the noodles and mix well. Once the noodles have warmed, scrape them to one side of the skillet. Add a touch more fat, then the eggs. Stir while cooking until just set, don't break down the egg to tiny bits, chunks are okay. Add the shrimp and chopped scallion to the party, then the fish sauce mixture, cook for a couple minutes while stirring/folding to keep the egg somewhat intact. Once everything is mixed well and warmed through- plate up with tongs, top with some bean sprouts, a handful of nicely toasted peanuts, a bit of cilantro, and a couple lime wedges on the side. Top with the long, thin pieces of scallion. What to pour? An Elk Cove Pinot Gris, of course. You enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Carne Asada Tacos

7 years old. For a lot of things, that would be a long life. Your mattress might make it that long. For a mayfly or worker bee, 2,555 days would be an eternity. The tires on my car won't last that long. Hell the car probably won't either. My fridge better make it 7 years. The furnace? Fat chance. A $150 22,000 BTU gas grill?

Thank you, Sears Kenmore, for the outdoor gas grilling experience you have provided for the past 7 years. You have lived outside your whole life, enduring many ups and downs in temps while residing in the Midwest, and plenty of rain and snow when I forgot to put your clothes back on. And plenty of abuse from me, although I (mostly) kept you clean and happy most of the time. Your auto ignition didn't last long, but that's okay. The light-in-the-handle gimmick was also crappy, but I didn't think of you any less, that was your parents' fault. You've been stoic for the last 7 years, and your age clearly shows the fight. You've grown squeaky and rusty, legs weak from oxidation, the cover thicker from creosote build-up from hours of smoking. You've had part replacement and other minor surgeries, but the years have finally caught up to. There's no more fixes, you've been around a lot longer than most. It's time to bid adieu, to say thanks and goodbye. You will not be forgotten, but remembered fondly. Thanks for all that dead animal (and some vegetable) you've put on the table. Now get your ass to the trash so we can get a new grill!

The last meal on the old grill-
Carne Asada Tacos
6 servings

2 lb skirt or flank steak
6-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, thinly sliced (seeds and membrane incl.)
2 limes and their juice
2 TB white vinegar
1/2 ts white sugar
1/3 C EVOO
handful cilantro, chopped (stems and leaves)
1/2 ts kosher
1/4 ts black pepper

grilled peppers
grilled onions
shredded cheese
sour cream
hot sauce
warmed flour or corn tortillas

For the marinade-
Add your steaks, trimmed of any excess fat (that's any fat hanging, not surrounded by meat) to a large seal-able plastic bag. Add the marinade ingredients and shake up a bit to get everything loving each other, then remove as much air as possible while you seal up the bag and place on a sheet pan with sides (in case there's a leak). Stash in the fridge for 2 (minimum) to (maximum) 8 hrs. Flip a few times during the marinate if possible. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before grilling, remove from marinade and remove the clinging garlic and onion pieces.

For the cooking-
Fire up your outdoor hotbox to bout medium-high, with the grills already slippery with your favorite lube (Pam). Over direct heat, grill for 4 minutes, then about 3 on the flippity flip. Use your finger to test for doneness, you want medium-rare to slightly more medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes off the grill, then slice in half (if long pieces of steak, you want bout 3" strips) and then slice thinly against the grain. Serve up with accouterments of your choice and warm tortillas. Acceptable drink choices include Tecate, Modelo, or Pacifico.