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Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Friday, June 4, 2021

Father's Day Fare: Smoky Brisket

 

With Father's Day fast approaching, give the dinner menu gift that keeps them coming back for more, a huge slab of smokey, tender and delicious beef brisket.  Veggies are good too, though you aren't likely to hear him say 'Man, that broccoli I had on Father's Day was just fantastic'!.  Yes, broccoli is good and great for you, but not really a memory maker like a mother lode of sandwiches, wraps, salads and plates piled high with some succulent beef with all the fixins'.  Everyone wins. Add your favorite barbecue sauce and it's a meal fit for Kings.
I started this mammoth brisket (14 1/2 lbs.) with a dry rub.  I let the brisket hang out for 1 hour, then overnight in the fridge and for about 2 hours at room temperature, before putting it in my smoker.  I used some Cherry wood chips, moistened, in an aluminum pan over charcoal and smoked the protein uncovered at a fairly low temperature (about 220*F) for around 9 hours, transferred it to a long pan, then covered it tightly with heavy duty foil and finished it in a 325* degree oven for another 6 hours. (This can be done overnight, so don't worry about too much commitment) Maintenance is low and the reward is at the apex of a stereo-typically "Man's Meal" for his or their special day.   Everyone will be pleased, especially the host or hostess, because you are free from meal planning for another two to three days.  The brisket freezes well, making a rainy day in the near future, shine bright like a diamond, in all its smoke forward glory.  
My family loves it when I prepare a nice brisket, and having a large one ensures everyone can get their fill. The oohs and ahhs really make me proud and the looks of satisfaction on their faces, makes the time put in well worth it.  I  get to make these a couple of times of year, and they never disappoint!  The pan jus is an added bonus, simply add some low sodium stock before covering and placing in the oven, ensuring a very moist and satisfying outcome.  
Visible smoke ring on Brisket

Brisket after removing foil and resting for 1 hour

For even more Brisket deliciousness, try my Smoky Brisket Mayonnaise!! You can access the recipe by scanning the code below!!


Monday, May 3, 2021

Hanging Strawberry Moss Baskets- Vertical Gardening Technique


Vertical Strawberry Moss Basket
I came up with this idea as I embark on my first season of growing strawberries at home.  I wanted to test out more vertical growing techniques and so, I in turn wanted to have a successful harvest.  Moisture is a big part of that equation and moss is a perfect candidate to help retain a good balance.  I gathered moss in sizable clumps and used it to line the shelves of a shower caddy I purchased specifically for this project, because I wanted it to hang flush against any wall space outside and hang downward, not sprawl across the ground, using vital grow space.  I also wanted to protect it from the animals, so suspending it  seemed like the best method to implement my idea.  
The moss adds a beautiful and organic touch to my hanging basket, which I secure with twine on the backside, enclosing the moss to serve as containers to house the strawberry plants.  The end result is a very cute and functional work of edible art, worthy of sharing and a focal point for a small grow space.  I am excited to see how it progresses and I will certainly keep you posted.  I chose three different types of strawberries, two of which are touted as best for growing when using a hanging basket, Allstar and Quinault, I also use Ozark Beautys.  These are June bearing plants, but do not make a surplus of viney connections, which is not ideal for this type of vertical gardening.  If you have more tips for growing strawberries vertically, myself and other readers would certainly appreciate your feedback.  You may leave comments in the space below and I will also take questions, if you have any about assembling your very own moss 'growing' basket.  Happy Gardening, the sky's the limit, literally!


 


Sunday, January 31, 2021

DIY Masala Dabba: Spice, Girl.

Custom Masala Dabba, created by me. From top left; Amchur (Mango) Powder, Paprika, Garam Masala. Row 2; Coriander Seeds, Curry Powder, Black Salt. Row 3; Asafetida, Extra Hot Chilli Powder, Fenugreek Seeds

I recently ordered a collection of Indian spices to broaden my culinary wheelhouse.  I am familiar with the basics of Indian spice culture, but there are literally scores of exotic and familiar components to choose from, that make up a delicious, often vegetarian dish.  It is customary to store Indian spices in a Masala Dabba or spice tin, from which you can mix and match spice combinations and flavors.  
There are seven spices that compose the core and correlate with dietary fulfillment and medicinal well being in Indian culture; cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and fenugreek.  These spices are some of the powerhouses of the spice world, touting antioxidants and medicinal values far beyond just one or two remedies.  The word Curry as we know it, is a Western Idealization and does not exist per se in India, as told to me by an Indian chef and restaurateur.  Additionally, Garam Masala is actually a combination of spices; cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, coriander and cardamom are often included, but are certainly not  exclusive.  A garam masala is strongly dependent on which region of India it comes from, with origins believed to stem from the Northern region.  Some regions will make a garam masala, which translates to 'hot or warm spices', into a paste using coconut milk, vinegar or water.  The further south you travel, the spicier the blends, a lot relies on locality of ingredients in relation to the person making it.  Some spice blends are handed down by families, generation to generation, which is magnificent; a recipe 'by any other name would smell as sweet...'
I came up with this vessel to accommodate my newly acquired collection of spices.  I knew that I wouldn't be cooking Indian cuisine daily, but I wanted easy access and to keep my spices as fresh as possible. I love the explosion of color Indian cuisine invites, so I chose the above spices to reflect as much; textures and shapes also.
I took to my culinary lab and created a suitable and highly adaptable item, with minimal overhead and versatility. I hope you can find use for one in your life too!
Supplies:
Hot Glue Gun
Glue Sticks, I used multiple colors for visual appeal ( color coding, many reasons, all good!)
1 gallon food storage container, with lid
9 -2 oz. rectangle containers, with lids
Instructions:
Before using the glue, play around with the positioning of the cups, I found the way pictured above worked best for this design.
When ready, remove small lids.
Start gluing each cup into place, picking up one at a time from the prearranged positions.
Start with the one in the top middle. If using more than one color, glue one color at a time, as not to back track with the glue gun and be more time efficient.
I also added a splash of matching glue of each color on the lids, to complement the base.
Fill each compartment on the bottom of the small container with glue, then secure it to the bottom side of the lid, so that the finished ''dabbas", will be covered with the large container, an inverted lid of sorts.  
Make sure you make necessary adjustments for each smaller lid to fit properly onto each cup.
Once all containers are filled, with lids replaced, you may cover with the inverted bowl.
Since the items are secure, you may store them flat or on its side, depending on how much space you have available.  
Your newly created custom spice caddy is not just for spices however. You can also use it for jewelry, sewing supplies, beads or other small materials for crafting, condiments for a cookout or just about anything you feel there is a need for organizing on a small scale.  Enjoy! 



DIY Masala Dabba color coded and secure containers with lids

DIY Masala Dabba's color coded containers are secured with colored glue sticks

 
Various Indian Spices

Saturday, September 26, 2020

On the Hunt for the Elusive Paw Paw



This year, our Paw Paw haul was considerably smaller than that of the last.  Normally, there are several of us that partake in the 'hunt', at least two people, to watch each other's back, especially along the highway.  There are some super secret locations from which we harvest these fragrant and most delightful gems.  The Paw Paw is known by many names, but its scientific name is Asimina Triloba and its been around for quite some time. The Paw Paw, also known by many other monikers like Poor Man's Banana, Kentucky Banana and more recently, Hipster Banana to name a few.  I highlight many more of its most amazing benefits in a previous article I posted, Paw Paw Poundcake.  This is the only tropical like fruit that grows indigenous in the Americas, most along the Eastern Side of the United and Southern States.  The Paw Paw has a very volatile shelf life, so it is not available in the Mass Market.  The Farmer's Market is the best place to find them potentially during late August to early October, but for my area of Central Virginia, its definitively late August thru the first couple weeks of September.  
I was so excited to finally find a few this season, I ate one in the car, on the short drive home. I wiped it with my shirt and peeled it with my teeth.  I asked the Paw Paw where its buddies were, of course it did not answer.  I knew there were more to be located, because the intoxicating, majestic and sweet aroma fills the air, you can literally follow your nose.  They flourish in partially shaded and well drained, but moist soil.
Most of the fruits pictured below were a tad too hard yet, the less appealing the skin gets, the better it becomes. The tropical and fragrant notes are more pronounced and the taste is exotic and familiar at the same time.  It possesses the mouthfeel almost like that of an avocado and it has good fats too!! 
 It is important to take advantage as soon as the Paw Paw start to ripen, the animals love them as much as we do and when they are ready, they will fall right from the tree, under its own weight.  They can literally litter the forest floor.  That is in part why they grow in natural groves, but it takes several years for a tree to produce fruit.  I finally have some of the seeds that I've thrown in my compost bed, start to grow on the back side and I can see many tiny trees, on their way to greatness.  I've also thrown them around the perimeter of our property over the years, to hopefully gain a few more followers, wish them luck!  
Paw Paw fruit, tropical and American at the same time.


The fruit of the Paw Paw are protected and almost hidden by its broad leaves.  They are much like the Morel in the spring, in that they are hard to spot, until you get accustomed to seeing them, then the magic happens.  Did I tell you that they smell Ahmazing!  I collected the Paw Paws pictured above from the roadside.  I didn't have the luxury at that moment, to go down the embankment, deeper into the woods, at the time or by myself.  I didn't get to go back, forfeiting my total haul for recipe development.  I am quite salty about that. The day was rainy and  I was in between rain showers when I made it to the area and with prior engagements looming, I could not steal any more moments, but I was glad that I at least harvested the few I did.  In the voice of Dr Claw, "Next time, Gadget!"  Now, I have to again wait until late August of next year.  Never miss a moment to tell a Paw Paw you care, they are gone in a flash!
Paw Paws trees have broad, flat leaves.

The fruits grow on the underside of the leaves, almost hidden.


 
 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Thai Style Green Coconut Curried Cabbage w/ Red Bell Pepper and Amabito no Moshio

Taste the magic and depth a good Thai curry can bring to your dinner table in this simple recipe, low on effort, but big on return.  I bought this massive head of cabbage from a fellow at the local Farmer's Market, weighing in at whopping 8 pounds. I believe strongly in helping to support small businesses where I can, I too belong to this growing population.  It was a beautiful specimen.  I also bought a bushel of fresh corn, which I trim and rinse well with water, then microwave, for a no fuss side dish or snack in a flash.  I was also able to procure a 1960's, vintage tool chest designed for young boys, made by American Toy Company.  It is in amazing condition.  Collecting vintage things is kinda my thing, but we will touch back on that later!  
 The corn comes out bursting with natural sweetness and flavor, as good as any method, anywhere.  I learned this trick from a dear friend of mine, an older gentleman, widowed, that would come into the restaurant I worked in when I was a freshman and sophomore in college.  He told me about how he prepared his corn and I then tried it at home and was surprised at the delicious flavor profile and how the husks left on, serve as the perfect protection and steaming vessel for each individual ear.  The only thing left to do after that is pull down the husks and remove the silk.  Add your desired condiments or serve as is for a refreshing course in corn.  
The humongous head of cabbage gave way to many ideas, but I settled for presenting it two ways with our Sunday dinner, traditional and curried.   I quartered the large cabbage and cut away the core.   In a large heavy bottomed pot drizzled with olive oil and smoked pork fat seared the quarters on all of its flat sides.  The smoked pork fat of course is optional, I rendered it from some jowl we had for Sunday breakfast.  The pork fat is in keeping with the traditional Soul Food version, full of flavor and smoky presence.  I seared the sides of the cabbage quarters, until a nice golden color was reached, about 20 minutes over medium heat.  
I really wanted to develop the flavors, before adding salt or any spice that could render the water before it could be properly browned.  This is where I divided the cabbage into 2 recipes.  From there, I added enough stock/water to cover the cabbage and sparsely separated the chunks with a fork.  You may use vegetable stock for a vegan version or chicken stock, water also.  Dashi stock will be fabulous if you have it. I brought them up to a boil and then set at at gentle rolling boil for about 25 minutes.  After about 25 minutes and reducing the liquid by 1/3, I added 4 oz. coconut milk, 1 tbs. Thai Coconut Green Curry Powder (by Manitou Trading Company and a small pinch of Amabito no Moshio (Seaweed Salt) reduced cooking temperature to medium to medium low. 
 The coconut green curry by Manitou is rich with lemongrass, tamarind, coconut milk, onion, garlic, lime leaves, shallots and other spices, even better simmered in a bit of oil before adding to the cabbage, to bloom the flavors.  Simmer the cabbage until desired texture is reached and add the sliced pepper towards the end as not to cook the slices apart.  Drizzle the finished dish and subsequent portions with COCAVO*oil.  Serve each serving with some of the delicious infused juice.
Cocavo oil is a fantastic blend of unrefined extra virgin coconut and avocado oils, with a hint of turmeric and lemon, just amazing!



Nice browning and caramelization adds depth and flavor.  Season afterwards, not before.




This pot is quite large, 12 qt. capacity and makes the cabbage look small!



The lone Red Bell Pepper growing beside my herb garden with my Begonias.




The Big Green Cabbage.






 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Quit Wishin', Go Fishin' and Kick Some Bass



 
This past weekend, we wrapped up a fabulous week long stay at the beautiful Occoneechee State Park.  This relaxing and scenic area, is also host to Buggs Island Lake, Virginia's largest, that extends into North Carolina!  This area  is one of the most popular fishing hubs, with prize winning fish coming from these vast and diverse waters. The above picture is taken from the 'back yard' of the cabin in which we stayed.  We felt completely secure, as the cabins are all private and the only human to human contact is on the initial check-in.  
Our crew was able to do a good amount of fishing and bringing in a decent haul, considering the fact that it rained, hard and steady, for days, literally everyday.  This is the first time we've encountered such consistent rains in one visit.  There was local flooding by nearby towns' streets, creeks and underpasses, but we were unaffected. 
 Our first fish of the season was actually a gift, from a couple that was on their last day and donated their bait as well.  The fish was a beautiful white bass pictured below.  The size was perfect for an impromtu Catch of the Day meal, with my on hand ingredients of fresh lemon, green onions, garlic and some staples; olive oil, butter and truffle oil.  With a hot oven, I open roasted the bass, which I personally dressed, at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then baked at 350*F for an additional 15 minutes, until it flaked with a fork and had some good carmelization on the exterior, about 30 minutes  total. I like to go a little long on our fish, because we prefer the meat a bit more firm than the suggested temperature for doneness would have it.  
I served the fish with a simple packaged Cheddar Broccoli Rice blend and a fresh green salad.  If you haven't gotten a chance to do so, having a Catch of the Day meal is the way to go. It's an amazing way to start off a little R&R, at your favorite camping, fishing or refuge destination. It's good to get a little messy sometimes, live a little!  Get out there and kick some BASS!  



















Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Frico Egg Art


How about something to get your kids engaged, that's easy to do, plus fills their bellies at the same time.  Enter this quick, simple and delicious two ingredient recipe.  Frico is a style that hails from North Eastern Italy and it involves heating cheese and sometimes adding other ingredients, this time it's a sliced boiled egg, but you can also use cooked slices of potato, peppers, mushrooms etc.. Execution is a breeze and you can exercise your creative muscles to make designs using your choice of ingredients.  Save the egg salad for later!

Recipe:

Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese or other hard cheese
Sliced boiled eggs
large nonstick saute pan
Spatula
SPST

Directions:
Over medium high heat, place about 1 oz. of cheese.
Once cheese starts to melt, reduce heat to medium and arrange eggs in a pattern.
Place another scant pinch of cheese onto center of frico.
Use a spatula to help frico keep its shape around the edges.
Remove from heat and wait about 1 minute.
Invert onto plate to show design and serve or place on buttered  or toasted bread.


I want to wish my first born daughter Genesis, a very Happy 14th Birthday Today,
Hope Your Day is Filled with Memorable Blessings!!!
Love, Mom, Bronwyn, Braelyn ( The Bees), Gram. 

If you would like this recipe and future posts delivered right to your mailbox, simply join us by adding your email in the subscription section at the top of the web version!  Thanks in Advance.

Best,
D. Smith :)

Monday, March 9, 2020

Saying "I Do" To What Matters Most

I love the invite of Spring just around the corner.  As a sufferer from SAD, the warmer, sunnier, brighter days induce a feeling of hope and positivity, that I can get nowhere else.  The little buds are forming on the trees, as they have been for weeks, mind you, while various flowers and bulbous plants are peeking their little heads above their cozy leaf covered beds.  Mother nature's growth hormones are in full effect.
It is now time to start tiny seedlings indoors, row by row, prepping them for the transition to our outdoor gardens and beds.  Soon, we will be digging, hauling, hoeing and making raised rows and anthills, to foster the best possible outcome for our magnificent homegrown produce. The pruning and gardening gloves, shears and clippers, will be our decided gear.  Aprons will have smears of the fertile and viable soil, especially along the tops of the pockets, and our shoes will show telltale signs of earthen activities.  We will have salad greens abound; tomatoes and cucumbers as well as violet and crimson berries; aromatic herbs and fresh accoutrements to a menu bursting with vitality and life.
The majority has embraced a more organic and virginal form of growing, using minimal additives if any at all.  Awareness is taking hold and this year, there will likely be more gardens or newly ordained 'farmers' than ever.  From the roof tops of cityscapes, to the marginal plots newly designated, the revolution will ensue.  We will assert ourselves as conscious consumers and bolster our confidence with our hands, turning sweet nothings into delicious somethings.  We will compost. We will engage in sensual congress with our progenys, our grow spaces.
These growing stations will not only provide sustenance and foster our most primal instincts, but also exercise our minds and bodies and quench our souls.  Some will be learning canning and dehydrating techniques for the first time, while others are hardened veterans and already have their preservation plans mapped out, like clockwork.
Fermentation will yield such ethnic delicacies as sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles and Kombucha, full of viable prebiotics, probiotics and flavor. Jams, jellies and preserves, oh my.  Sweet, savory, tart and briny all have a place at the table. Feelings of accomplishment and confidence will spring forth proverbial sunshine, to reflect onto all we do.  We will get to know our foodstory more than ever.  We will share, we'll feast, we'll preserve, we will fellowship.  We will be Betterthaneverians. Do you like the way that sounds? I know I DO!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Fish Tips For the Summer!

I have done my share of cleaning fish, especially over the past 5 years.  I cleaned and butterflied  about 26 fish yesterday alone! My brother in law has really gotten into his hobby, when spare time permits.  He works for a paving company, making roads, both private and public, driveways and parking lots better and safer for us as drivers.  For that I would like to send out a big Thank You on behalf of motorists everywhere.
We have access to many fishing outlets here in these beautiful mountains.  Where we live is the second oldest incorporated town in Virginia, second only to Jamestown!   We are residents of the Leesville Dam and Leesville Lake area, plus there is Goose Creek and other waterways and ponds to choose from.  Goose Creek is where many people enter the river to float into the Staunton River, which runs by our  nearest town and my high school Alma Mater, Altavista.
There is avid hunting in this area as well, full of wilderness, full of life.  We have bears, coyotes, bobcats, rattlesnakes, moccasins, both water and copperheads, too many  deer, even the rare black coyotes, which is just a product of genetics.  I saw one that had been hit in the road one morning, it looked like a skinny bear cub with a dog's face. I was only able to glean  this description going about 45 mph, on my way taking the kiddoes to school.  When I came back through, it was gone, taken for its coat or picked up by VDOT, the first theory probably the most accurate.
Luckily, one of  my sisters and her husband, who is an avid hunter and "angler" came through and got out to investigate and clarified my best guess, having never seen one before.  But Yeah, the phrase "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My" for sure.  This area is amazing from  the nature and natural beauty standpoint.  The people are pretty solid too.
Back to the lesson at hand, tips and tricks for cleaning and deboning smaller or pan sized fish, because let's be honest, we are not always going to bring home a whopper, plus these  are most the flavorful in my opinion. I like to use a small pile of salt to help anchor my grip on the fish. This way, you can scale this guy more efficiently, which is the first step if the fish has scales.   I line my cleaning station with cardboard if possible, any will do, empty pizza boxes are perfect for this kind of job, absorbing all the excess yuck while you work.  After scaling, you are free to remove the head and entrails.  The featured fish is a white perch.  This my technique to butterfly your protein. Gloves are advised, particularly for the hand holding the fish while you work.

I lay the fish on its back  and hold it like a book I'm about to start reading.  I start at the top and carefully but firmly, make a cut through the bones along where the rib bones meet the back bone. I cut all the way down til I get to the stomach area.  I then lay fish on its side and place a hand firmly on the top run my knife down along the backbone, all the way to the tail.  The fish should lay flat at this point, like an open book.


At this point you can carefully remove the rib bones and the largest sharp part of the fin on the left side shown. Note:  I am left handed so this whole plan is flipped for you right handed souls lol.
You can remove the rib bones by carefully sliding your knife under the bones at the top or bottom of the ribs and working the knife upwards or downwards, pressing against the ribs.  Repeat on opposite side.  Scrape belly flaps to aid in extracting bones from this portion.  Normally, I would use my filet knife also,  the chef's knife is to cut through the bone, but it fell down behind the damn sink.  Drat!
After you remove all the yuck with a few good swishes and salted soak, at least 1 hour, your fish is ready for whatever comes next! Well, gotta go, just got a mess of fish from my fisher guy/bnl Will, back to the lab I go, because, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." I'll always remember that banner Mr. Temples, our beloved band director put up in the band room, he was possibly the best band director to ever live, just Phenomenal! Today's Catch of the Day, Bass! Stay tuned for fresh, new recipes featuring these 'puppies'.


The remaining bones are easily pulled out with the fins.  Extreme Caution Advised, especially for Children and Inattentive Adults!


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Strolling After Dark; A Post Dinner Memoir

Dinner is served. The preparatory chopping, measuring and 'eyeballing' has been done and the kitchen is down to only the low hum of the appliances, things are running smoothly.  The dishes you chose to present have been plated and consumed, the once shuffling, clanging and wiping of plates and sawing of the knives and scratching of forks has subsided, recognition for a job well done is in order.  Surprisingly, the kiddoes  helped to clear the table this time.  There were no send backs, no burns, re-fires, nothing was raw, no allergic reactions...feelings of jubilation from the pleased palates and faces mark the time and date, the menu.  Cleanup is winding down, leftovers have been properly cooled and stored, midnight snacking may ensue.  Foggy brain and food comas for some, a nice glass of red for others, some whisky. SHIFT DRINK!  Chit Chatter continues about the day's occurrences, who wore something hideous, talks of the next game, the annoying office coworker and let's not forget that new line cook that can't pull their weight, new job openings for the establishment imminent.  Alas, all's well that ends well. Nothing like a romantic stroll to burn a few calories and expedite the digestion process.  Some will feel sand squishing  between their toes, some the soft matte of the grass, others the cooling concrete, once scorching hot from the day's sun.  The breeze of the ocean with its briny mist is welcome to the exposed skin of faces, legs and arms.  Melodic Aromas of dinners still happening, cafes still teeming with patrons, and dinners of home cooks who arrived late, permeate the air, the show must go on.  The smell of fresh flowers and cut grass, gas fumes and something not quite so pleasant may wander through the air as well.  Satisfaction is abundant, everything from light reading, to a bar or night club, is in the near future for those at the finish line, sleep is also an option. All these things made possible because dinner has been served; in restaurants, bars, food trucks and home kitchens.  You have given the people what they wanted.  On the morrow, you will be ready to do it all over again; for the passion, for provisions or for the hell of it.  Either way, it's time to appreciate, good job.
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Smokinhotchef
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