Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tangy and Buttery Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is an homage to the sometimes greatly adored or  highly abhorred vegetable, synonymous with the words "Eww" and "Yuck".  Brussels Sprouts are popular  in Belgium and have been since the early 13th century, with the first written account being made in 1587.  There is no undisputed evidence, but they may have originated there.
Brussels Sprouts as we know them came to the Americas around the 18th century to Louisiana, by way of the French Settlers.  Thomas Jefferson grew Brussels Sprouts at Monticello.  California encompasses the best climate and growing conditions  for these sprouts which mainly began in the 1920's.
 Modern genetics has worked to to help lessen the off putting bitter taste of these earth-like gems and make them more palatable.  They are a part of the Cruciferae family which includes cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli and kohlrabi to name a few.  Brussels Sprouts are rich in B vitamins, dietary fiber, Vitamin A, and folic acid, which is found in orange juice.  Also, they contain a compound called sinigrin, which is believed to help fight against colon cancer. They also harbor indole-3-carbinol, a compound beneficial in DNA repair.  Heart patients should be aware that excessive amounts of Brussels Sprouts may be a hindrance, because they contain a significant amount of Vitamin K, which can interfere with anti-coagulants.
Instances of over consumption, are far and in between, so do not let this notion deter you from enjoying these super leafy green antioxidant giants from time to time.!
The following recipe is a simple and delicious one, using fresh lemon and zest, a splash of seasoned rice vinegar and a small amount of real butter.  I prepared these in the microwave, as per convenience, and to promote just enough steaming to promote minimal nutrient loss.  Boiling your sprouts significantly lowers the levels of heart and colon healthy compounds, so steam, stir-fry or saute to get the most out of their benefits.  You may also half them to expedite cooking process and accommodate carmelization of surfaces.
This recipe pairs well with roasted chicken and pork.
1 lb. fresh  Brussels Sprouts, trimmed if needed
1 lemon and zest
splash of seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp. butter
Place sprouts in microwave safe vessel.  Add butter and about 1/4 c. water. Cover.  Microwave on high for about 6 minutes or until tender.  Pour contents onto serving vessel and squeeze the lemon juice atop and add a splash or two of the vinegar.  Grate some zest atop and SPST.   Drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serves 4 to 6.

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The Fat Bastard, A Breakfast Melody!

My sister Linda spent the weekend with us, and we caught up on all the gossip and happenings  of the past two weeks, since we last had a chance to hang out.  We brought Sunday morning in with a venture of making breakfast together. My sister Hollie had already made a wonderfully hot and soothing, bone warming fire, as we have a wood stove in our home-place house. With the smell of fresh coffee and soft gospel music from the radio already wafting through the house, thanks to Hollie as well, Linda  began slicing serving- -sized portions of Kielbasa to be roasted and patting out cakes of fresh homemade sausage, procured by way of  a guy, lovingly referred to in our area as the "Sausage Man".  Linda also prepared a 'mess' of fried potatoes in our old fashioned cast iron skillet.  My task was the biscuits.  I follow the same routine as usual, and began mixing, cutting, rolling, cutting out and transferring the fluffy rounds of country clouds or "cat head biscuits", as called by some, to my baking sheet. My best guess as to why they are nicknamed so, is because they are larger than the average cutout biscuit, about the same diameter as a cat's head!  It just sounds fun to say!
 Normally this goes on without a hitch, but my girls were in kitchen as well, and wanted to do their part, so I gave Bronwyn the rolling pin, a small piece of dough and a work surface.  Genesis came in and she too wanted to help, and the power struggle for the rolling pin began.  After much bickering and agreeing to disagree, the girls decided to share the seat, and pass the pin back and forth.!  They rolled and rolled, until losing interest and migrating back into the other parts of the house.  When the biscuits were baked, sausage and Kielbasa gently cooked in the oven and the potatoes steaming hot and fragrant with notes of savory onion in tow, the eggs were scrambled and plated.  We opted for loaded biscuits for the sake of cleanup and trying to fit all the 'ole fashioned, 'Sundays of old breakfast' into our designated vessel.  The task was a daunting one, mindful of the surface area and they ability to actually be able to hold it in your hands and eat it with minimal hassle.  I decided to go for it and not worry about actually holding it.  I cheated by using a knife and fork!!  This is definitely not a biscuit for every day, or even every week, but it's mighty good for a special occasion, as is anytime we can get more than 3 sisters in the same place at one time, we splurge!  I took it a step further and added aged Vermont White Cheddar cheese to seal the deal, it was delicious and indulgent, hence the name "Fat Bastard"!  There's no place like home indeed!:)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Red Potatoes Caprese!

This recipe is a combination of two wonderfully simple recipes. The red potatoes and the warm Caprese salad compliment each other well and are tied together with a simple and delicious olive oil and herb infusion.  Boccacini or small mozzarella balls, Italian, which translates into "small mouthfuls", a perfect description, add fresh creaminess to the experience. Bright, juicy grape tomatoes are a match made in heaven for the ornate side dish or vegetarian main course, and the potatoes may be prepared in veggie broth instead of chicken broth or plain salted water.
This dish goes well alongside any protein. I  initially planned to serve the Caprese salad atop a bed of spinach with thinly sliced red onion, with the boiled red potatoes, to serve with a barrage of grill fresh steamed and smoked oysters, crab legs and Kielbasa for an impromptu get together with family.  The day, two Saturdays ago, was gorgeous and  I went to pick up my sister Linda, to enjoy the day filled with heart healthy horseshoes, sharing stories and some friendly rounds of cards, late into the evening. Well, late is overstated, because it lasted til around 11:30 pm, very late by my standard!  As the evening went on, we noshed and nibbled on the spoils of the grill, family style, on the patio as we played cards, and the plating became a non issue, as the potatoes had been forgotten in the kitchen on the stove.
The salad remained as well, so I thought, why not put the two together for a colorful and tasty accompaniment for another meal, the results were super awesome, and my 5 year old Bronwyn loved it too.
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 lb. boccacini
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs, like basil, parsley and oregano
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
2 lbs. small red potatoes
chicken broth
 Place vinegar in a bowl and whisk in about 2 tbsp. of olive oil. SPST
Fold in cheese, tomatoes and herbs until coated evenly. Marinate at room temperature for up to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place potatoes in medium pot and fill to just cover with chicken broth.
 Bring up to a boil and reduce to rolling simmer, cooking until done, about 25 minutes.
Let potatoes cool enough to handle and quarter.  Toss with Caprese salad or place on plate and spoon some of salad atop potatoes.  Place under broiler or briefly in microwave to partially melt cheese.
Serves 6 to 8

Monday, March 18, 2013

Korean BBQ Boneless Chicken Bites!

This is a simple and wonderful recipe showcasing the rich color and flavor of hot pepper paste.  Also known as Gochujang, as it is Korean in origin, this paste is a mainstay in it's cuisine and culture.  Making an appearance in Korea around the late 18th century, after the Europeans introduced chili peppers by way of Japan, hot pepper paste was made in many homes.  The process included powdering the peppers and mixing them with glutinous rice or similar starches, as well as fermented soybeans and salt.  The mixture was then aged in earthen pots in the sunlight to achieve it's savory and deep flavor profile.  Since it's commercialization around the 1970's, Gochujang is hardly made by individuals anymore.  The paste can be  used any way from marinating meats to building flavors for soups and sauces.  The color is a brilliant, almost unbelievable hue that is rich in umami notes and dense heat flavor, that may be toned down or adjusted to fit your personal palate, by using ingredients with some sweetness, like agave nectar, brown sugar, corn or cane syrup.  This recipe uses boneless chicken breast chunks, but feel free to use chicken thigh meat, bone-in whole legs or other chicken pieces and even pork.  I introduced this recipe to my family as appetizers for the SuperBowl and also paired them with sauteed broccoli slaw with snow peas, spiked with garlic, fish sauce and seasoned rice vinegar, for a well balanced and amazing meal. This meal went over well with the beer for the sports fans, and appealed to the crowd with a moderate heat index.  You will definitely serve this recipe again, once you try it!
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken or pork meat, cut into about 1 inch pieces
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. potato starch
1/4 c. rice flour
oil for frying
For sauce:
3 cloves pressed or finely minced
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1/3 c. hot pepper paste
1/2 c. good quality ketchup
1/2 c. corn syrup
In a large bowl, combine chicken, egg, salt, pepper, potato starch and rice flour.  With rubber spatula or hands, mix until well and evenly coated.  Set aside while oil heats.
Bring oil to 375* and fry chicken in small batches, until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes per batch, drain on paper towels, keeping warm in oven until completion.
Once chicken is finished, drizzle pan over medium high heat with olive oil.
Once hot, add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add fish sauce, paste, ketchup and corn syrup.
Cook, stirring constantly for about 1 more minute and add chicken pieces tossing and folding with a rubber spatula  to coat.
Transfer to serving dish.  Garnish with sesame seeds if desired or fresh herbs. Pair with rice, sauteed veggies or as is for appetizers.
Serves 6 to 8.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The 1010, Ultimate Cheeseburger Experience

This is the first recipe I ever entered into a professional cooking contest.  I had to come up with my idea of the best burger ever, and the results are featured above.  The blueprint for this recipe revolved around a flavor profile that I felt could be identified with by many.  The idea of pot roast came to my mind, so the object of my quest was to create and exhibit the idea of mimicking those flavors, without spending hours over the stove and it won't have to wait until fall or winter. Good quality ground chuck is the protein of choice.  For the potatoes, a settled for a potato roll.  Ironically enough, when I went to our supermarket to purchase the rolls, they were out, so I opted for a robust and hearty Ciabatta roll.  For the carrot, celery and  peppers, I added just that, but in a quick pickled fashion to scatter atop the burger. The onions make an appearance as whole, trimmed green onions or scallions, grilled and chopped.  The tomatoes are included as is, in glorious slices situated below the burger.  
The 'gravy' was probably my most unique aspect of the burger as a whole, as it consisted of a reduction of red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, beef broth, bay leaf, butter and agave nectar!  The sauce was amazing and tied the ingredients together wonderfully, drizzled on the burger itself as well as the top portion of the grilled Ciabatta.  Provolone cheese seals the deal for dexterity.  I didn't win the grand prize of 100,000 bucks or even get runner up, but I am pleased with my work, more importantly, my family thought it was one in a million.
  There are lots of small steps to this recipe, but definitely not something that's not worth the wait.  I named the finished burger after myself, or one of my college days' nicknames, 1010, which I was referred to lovingly by my closest friends.  Now I share this recipe with you all, my new friends in food and blogging family!:)
1 each medium stalk celery,large carrot, red bell pepper
1/3 c. each red wine vinegar, sugar, water
1/4 tsp. each red pepper flakes, dill seed, celery seed
1 c. Cabernet Sauvignon
1 c. reduced sodium beef broth
1 small bay leaf
2 pats unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. Agave nectar
3 lbs. ground chuck, 85/15
1 tbsp. plus1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 c. parsley, rough chopped
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
2 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 5.5 oz bag green onions or scallions, white parts only
12 slices provolone
12 slices tomato
6 Ciabatta or Potato rolls
Preheat grill according to directions on bag, using an indirect cooking method.
Start with the quick pickled veggies.
Julienne carrot, celery and red bell pepper and place in an airtight container with lid.
Add spices and and about 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.
Dissolve sugar in water/vinegar solution and pour over veggies.
Add lid and shake to distribute spices and coat veggies. Set aside.
Next, place wine, broth and bay leaf in medium sauce-pot over the hottest part of the grill, bringing to a boil.  Reduce liquid to about 1/4 c., about seven minutes.
Remove from heat.  Discard bay leaf and stir in butter and Agave nectar.  Keep warm.
Meanwhile, prepare ground mixture by first combining 1 tbsp. olive oil, parsley, allspice, Sriracha and onion powder. SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Add to beef blend just enough to evenly incorporate wet paste.
Divide into 6 burgers.
Place burgers on medium hot grill for 4-6 minutes each side for medium rare to medium.
While burgers cook, drizzle green onions with olive oil and SPST.
Add to grill for about 6 minutes total, a small tin pan or foil will keep them from falling through the grates.
Once burgers have been flipped, split rolls and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Place on medium heat part of grill.
Once green onions have grilled and translucent, transfer to a surface and rough chop.

Place 2 slices of tomato on bottom part of roll.  Add burger.
Stir wine reduction and drizzle 1/6 onto top of burger and and toasted side of top roll
Add 2 slices of cheese and 1/6 of chopped onions
Using a slotted spoon or fork, top with 1/6 of pickled veggies.
Finish with bun top.
Serve with grilled potatoes and/or grilled vegetables.
Serves 6.

Note:  May be prepared via stove-top for convenience using a grill pan or cast iron skillet.

Thai Marinated Fried Chicken

This recipe came to me one day when I was about to marinate some chicken in traditional buttermilk, but I had the ingredients on hand to make other recipes of mine that are popular with the family, Thai Marinated Grilled Chicken and Thai Style Pasta, especially sisters Bonnie,Hollie and Gayle. This was also good to help use up some of the spices I had on hand.  Instead of using buttermilk, I used coconut milk.  For flavor building and aromatics, I used Thai Green Curry Spice blend.  This blend is layered  with goodies, including garlic, soy bean, coriander, chili, onion, lemon grass, celery seed, carrot, chives, turmeric, pepper, mustard powder, fenugreek, cumin, chick pea, ginger and cardamon, also salt.  The results were fabulous and the flavor profile is amazing.  I garnished this recipe with fresh parsley from my herb garden, but using Thai Basil or cilantro would be ideal, cilantro being what I used in the above mentioned recipes.  Jasmine Rice makes for a perfect accompaniment for this recipe and stir fry veggies, for an overall multicultural trip to the Orient!

1 3 to 4 lb. fryer, cut up into 8 pieces
1 can coconut milk, UN-sweetened
2 tbsp. Thai Green Curry Spice Blend
Seasoned flour
oil for frying
parsley or cilantro for garnish
In resealable bag, add coconut milk and spice blend, shaking to mix.  Add chicken and work around in bag to coat.
Press out excess air and seal.
Marinate for 2 to 4 hours.
When ready, heat oil to 375*.
Drain chicken in colander, but do not rinse.
Fry chicken in 2 batches until golden and internal temperature reaches 165*, about 10 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.
Keep warm in oven until complete.
Garnish with herbs.  Serves 4.

Steak n' Havarti Mac and Cheese!

Macaroni and cheese is not only popular with the kids, adults can also be included in the bunch. More and more chefs and mac and cheese enthusiasts have come up with spins and variations that elevate this wonderful complete protein combination to all new heights. Ingredients are virtually limitless when swapping out pastas and  cheeses, including add in's like lobster and steak.   Adding savory steak bites and carmelized onions, help achieve an over the top and super protein packed punch. This recipe is suitable for an amazing meal for adults. The cheese for this recipe is Havarti,  Danish in orgin, also a pasturized,cow's milk cheese, named after a farmer's estate in the 19th century, aged for at least 1 month.  Havarti is often flavored with dill, chili or cumin, and has a natural washed soft rind .
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp.brown sugar
1 lb. ziti, cooked  al dente, in salted water, reserving about 1 1/2 cups pasta water.
1 lb. bite sized steak pieces, such as for stir frying, sauteed for about 2 minutes in a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat
8 oz. Havarti w/ dill, cut into cubes
1/2 c. frozen or fresh peas
Olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with oil and melt butter.
Once small bubbles form and sizzling, add onions, sugar and SPST, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 4 minutes, reduce heat to medium low and cook until onions are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Once onions are carmelized, remove from pan, and return heat to medium high.
Drizzle with olive oil and add steak bites.  SPST
Saute until no longer pink and some browning occurs, about 2 minutes.
Add pasta water and bring up to a boil.
Add cheese and reduce heat to medium low.  Stir until cheese is melted and add pasta.
Fold until pasta is coated and heated through.
Fold in onions and peas. Drizzle with olive oil and  SPST.  Cover.
Turn  off heat.
Let stand for 5 minutes, for peas to heat through.  Serves 6 to 8.