Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simple and Good

Grape tomato, bocconcini, and basil skewers with
sea salt flecked upon them.

Yellow neeps with tarragon, thyme, and cream.

Roasted potatoes, onions, and squash.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waste Not Want Not

We came home on Sunday with a turkey carcass from Mojo's and 
a very meaty hambone from Mom in VT.  On the left is turkey 
stock which usually is turned into turkey noodle soup, but
eighth grade daughter requested a velvety potato-cabbage
soup instead.  Usually, that soup is made from the remnants 
of the corned beef, cabbage, and potato pot.  The contents are 
boiled and pureed with a stick blender until smooth.  Cream
of Saint Patrick's Day.  They love it.

On the right is the ham stock with celery, carrots, and onions, 
a bag of split peas, chopped garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.
The ham bone was removed and the ultra-tender meat was
cooled and broken into chunks to be added later.  Again,
the soup was zapped (foodie term for pureed) and seasoned.
I cook for my family every day, but today I thought of our
friend Kelly while making this soup.  All you need to do is 
tell me once that you really liked something I made, and I'll
think of you every time I make it from then on.  

I made a pizza on Sunday night quickly, no fuss, because we 
were tired and I didn't want to use every pot in the house like
I usually do.  Again, I used leftovers to top the pizza:  2 
microwaved potatoes from last week, a half of an onion in the
veg drawer, and a piece of kielbasa from the freezer.  The plain
half was for my non kielbasa-eating wife.  Eighth grade
daughter dove in mouth first. Save all leftovers - throw nothing away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prelude to OFD

Smoky Sweet Potato Gratin.  Not yams, which are orange,
but sweet potatoes which are much paler colored and red-skinned.
The smokiness came from a dash of Wright's liquid smoke, which
I'm not afraid to admit.  Apparently it's not bad for you and it really
gives a nice flavor to things if you don't overdo it.  

Humongous U-7 dry sea scallops from Barnegat Light.  I went to the 
store to buy salmon for gravlax, and when I saw these I stopped at 
the kidney donation booth for some extra cash.  I pan-basted these 
with brown butter and pine nuts, then poured the baste over boiled 
broccoli florets.  And the big day isn't for three more days?
We're all in serious trouble. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Root of our Family Tree

Celeriac, otherwise known as Knob Celery, has been
the root of our family tree longer than I've been around.
OFD  is when we all enjoy it in a salad made very much
like German Potato Salad.  In fact it's virtually identical,
except that the knobs are used in place of boiled potatoes.
And the keeper of the tradition (Mom) includes chicory 
leaves for garnish and texture.  They're tangy and add a
slight crunch.  They happen to be my favorite part.

It's a grotesque looking vegetable, with roots and knobs
protruding in all directions, and I imagine most folks are 
just plain scared to tackle the thing.  The stalks resemble 
celery, but are more tough and bitter than their cousins.
The prize is definitely the bulbous root.  The whole root
is boiled in salted water in its jacket 'til tender, cooled, 
and then peeled and cubed.  Next step is to toss the cubes
in a simple vinaigrette with thinly sliced onions and chicory
and left to sit, marinating.  Close to service is when
mayonnaise is folded in, although not too much, just enough
to coat all involved, and then salt and pepper to taste.

It's a cold side dish to an otherwise warm array of 
accompaniments (except for cranberries which I don't 
dislike but have never found a use for on THXG).
You'll find yourself raiding the fridge early Thanksgiving
Friday morning, in your underwear, eating it from the 
tupperware with a fork, alternating bites with tugs of 
cold milk straight from the jug. 

Monday, November 14, 2011


Oh man....Bacon, Arugula and Tomato sandwich.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dude, you keeping those?

Calm down Doug, they're basil seeds.  I thought I might strip them
from the stalks on my basil plant outside the back door and see
if they sprout next April.  They still smell pungent and who knows?
Yeah yeah, I know.  Some things never change, thank goodness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Simple and Good

Grilled boneless pork chops, roasted Yukon Gold potatoes,
Brussels sprouts with butter, and cured olives and oven-dried
tomatoes.  Almost every forkful has all the elements of  the
spread laid out before me.  It's no wonder I'm always the last
to get up from the table.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dinner under the Dome

Whole roasted chicken, potatoes, and onions cooked with indirect
heat under the Weber grill dome.  Slow is the way to go.  
170 degrees in the thighs and 160 for the breast and taters
and onions tender and ready.  About an hour and a half.  Magic.

Once all of that stuff is off the grill, throw the zucchini
halves directly over the coals and watch for about 5
minutes, with a turn halfway through.  No mess in the
kitchen and minimum 3 days worth of dinners.  Probably
$10.00 of  product, but the flavor is priceless.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yes, Pleese!

Can you spot Sponge Bob?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Sliced baguette fried in olive oil, with Grana Padano
(a cousin of Parmigiano Reggiano), whole basil, and
of course field-grown Jersey plum tomatoes.  Sprinkled
with grey sea salt (sel gris) and cracked black pepper.
Obviously you don't have to eat it like this. It's just that,
well you know, I like to play with my food now and then.

Thinking of Charley in Ireland, I dug up this photo
of the sea stack at Downpatrick Head, County Mayo.
It was one of the most spectacular sights we came
upon during our visit.  I'm thinking my stack was a 
bit more tender to the bite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pizza Night

I don't think being perfectly round is the most important thing.
I made two, and there was not a slice left.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cosas Verdes

Are you thinking what we're thinking?

So I was wondering what kind of Mexican Squirrel was chewing
on my jalapenos lately.  I probably missed him the other day
because he is kinda green.  Holy guacamole!  Bonnie, what kind
of caterpillar is this again?

Don't worry, I brought him inside just to get a better look at him
before I batter-fried him.  Kidding.  Just like with the mouse I caught
 in my living room years ago, I went outside and threw him into the 
woods.  No way they'll ever find their way back here, right?  

The one ripe jalapeno he didn't get.  I don't know what's wrong 
with me and growing certain vegetables.  The herbs do fine, but the
freakin tomatoes take forever to grow, and half of them rot on the
vine before I pick them.  The jalapenos have not even been remotely
hot, just chewy green pointy bell peppers.  At least someone likes 'em.

And yes, blowfish again.  This time panko crusted.  I'll get tired
of them soon, right around the end of their season.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blown away

I Stopped at Ahearn's on the way home today.  I am
usually drawn to the dry sea scallops immediately, but 
I also scanned the fish case for some nice fin-fish fillets.
At first I thought I saw frogs' legs, which are certainly
good but not typical of Ahearn's offerings.  I looked
more closely and was thrilled and inspired to see
blowfish!  Of course I asked if they were local, which
they were not (Maryland), but where do the best
crabs come from?  Along with a half pound of
scallops, I got a half pound of blowfish bodies.  The
spine, tail, and dorsal fin were still included, but 
otherwise there were two beautiful loins on each fish.

First I cooked the scallops with a scant amount of 
oil on high heat, removed them to a dish on the side...

added some more oil to shallow fry, lowered the heat 
to 2/3, dredged the blowfish in flour, and fried both sides 
until crisp and brown.   

I had some leftover sticky, Japanese sweet rice which
I mixed with scallions, sesame seeds, sesame oil and
a touch of bacon fat, and snow peas which I boiled
quickly and tossed with oyster sauce.  At the table, I 
drizzled sweet chile sauce over the fish and scallops,
and had a couple beers to wash it all down. The fish was 
mild, sweet and super easy to pry away from the backbone.
No pesky pin-bones to deal with, just two perfect bites per
fish. I kept the presentation simple in honor of a good friend 
of mine who scoffs at over-decorated plates.  What
really matters is flavor, texture, and proper doneness,
all of which were well-achieved. Promise.

P.S.- the tails were crunchy and delicious.  Eat some today.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sweet Corn Salad

I've finally slowed down on buying corn.  When it first appears
at farmstands in the beginning of July, I can't get enough of it.
Now, once a week will do, and leftover ears are usually cut down
and mixed with diced Kirby cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions,
cilantro, a can of beans (any kind will do - these happen to be pintos),
olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and cumin.  Not too
much cumin, but just enough to notice.  For an hour before dinner,
continue folding the salad every ten minutes or so to keep the
ingredients coated.  Cool, crisp, and refreshing.  When you're 
done eating, you'll be going back to the bowl with your fork for
just one more flavor-bursting bite after another.  Until someone 
tells you to cut that shit out. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can't beet 'em

I had been asking for beets at one of my favorite farmstands
for a week or two, and today they got sick of me asking.  The 
farmer went out back and pulled 2 bunches for me while I waited.
Within an hour they were trimmed, washed, and roasted in their
skins with olive oil until a knife easily went through them.  Roasting
as opposed to boiling the beets retains all of the juices and the 
deep red color and concentrates the flavor of the beet as well. 

When cooled, rub off the skin, slice the beets, and mix with a 
sliced onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Simple. And phenomenally delicious.  

Friday, July 15, 2011


Check out the veil of smoke escaping from the grill and
 then being sucked up over the lid.  Ghostlike, it clings
to the exterior of the dome and then releases at the top.

With the indirect cooking/smoking of the rib-ends and
potatoes complete, more charcoal was added and
soon the marinated flank steak would be grilled.

Of course, Jersey sweet white corn was also served,
and all the while dark & stormies were consumed.

This test rib yelled out to be eaten.  Barely clinging to its
own serving utensil, the meat, cartilage, and fat slowly
receded from the bone, leaving a perfect, tidy mouthful
of smoky heaven.  I'm hungry again just writing this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Must-Stop

We drove our younger daughter to camp in the Poconos this
morning, travelling north on rt. 31 and then east on 46 on our 
way to the Delaware Water Gap.  While passing through Buttzville, 
I couldn't help noticing Hot Dog Johnny's, a throwback roadside 
mecca of  deep-fried hot dogs and draft birch beer.  Note to self:  
Stop there on the way back, at any cost.  Do not eat a single bite of
food between now and the moment you pull into that parking lot
on the way home.  The lot was empty at 8:00 a.m., but surely they'd 
be jamming at lunch time.  My intuition proved to be accurate as the 
place was abuzz with travelers of all shapes and sizes.     

We waited only a couple minutes in line, and when I got to the
window, I realized how customers were served so quickly.  I
naively asked if there was a menu to see, for I had scanned the 
walls and found nothing of the sort.  The reply was no.  I then 
asked what they had, and in a single breath, the girl behind the
counter said, "hot dogs, fries and soda".  Then give me two hot
dogs with pickles and mustard, fries, and a birch beer.  My order
was taken so quickly, I had forgotten to ask about the buttermilk,
which apparently some people drink cold from a mug with their
dogs and fries.  Next time......Buttermilk?  

We found a picnic bench out of about a dozen, which on the average, 
turns in around ten minutes or so.  The birch beer was deep red and
delicious, the fries were crispy and salty (perfect), and the dogs were
pretty average, truth be told.  A little bit wrinkled from the deep fryer,
they were good, not great.  Didn't matter.  This place smacked of
Americana and to pass by would have surely amounted to treason.
And far be it from us not to be American-like.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Full Swing

New Jersey farmstands are just about in full swing, with the 
world-famous sweet white corn, tomatoes, and yellow peaches 
headlining the bill.  The Kirby cukes make great asian cucumber
salad, and the beans are rock hard and dark green, picked this
morning.  I try like hell not to buy vegetables in the grocery store
from July thru September, relying on the bounty of the local stands
instead.  Yeah, you may pay a bit more for certain items, but just
knowing that the stuff is that much fresher makes it all worthwhile.
A close blogging friend put it best: "There's a lot to be said for letting 
fruit and veggies ripen in the field instead of a warehouse."  This 
produce I consider to be 'artisanal', in that it takes more time to 
nurture, to mature, and to bring to market than mass-grown and
harvested crops.  There's a difference in the look, feel, and taste
of these fruits and vegetables.  And they might not always appear
as perfect as their store-bought cousins.  Billy Crystal once said,
"It's not how you look, darling, but how you taste."  Or something
like that.  By the way, this white corn was " the most obscenely 
sweet and juicy, kernels pop in your mouth, where did that ear 
just go? corn"  I've had in about ten months.  I'll be leaning over 
the sink later-on tonight devouring the rest of the leftover ears.
Even if I'm not necessarily hungry. 

BTW, is anyone else's basil exploding? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Okay, summer's finally here in NJ

I can without hesitation say:  Summer's here in New Jersey!
For the last week or two, my eyes have been trained to the
roadside for 'Sweet Corn' signs, and this morning my patience
paid off.  We passed a couple of familiar spots before pulling in
to our go-to stand, Krowicki's of New Egypt.  They were selling
bread and butter corn, not my favorite but still good, at $5 a dozen.
The only stand on our normal route that sells a baker's dozen.
Mrs. Krowicki assured me that the B&B is first to mature, and
the sweetest of the bunch.  I disagree.  Their Silver Queen is by
far the most obscenely sweet and juicy, kernels pop in your mouth,
where did that ear just go? corn I've ever had.  I've spoken with
people from Iowa and Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Maryland 
and Long Island, all claiming theirs to be the best of the best.
How do you spell the sound you make with your mouth when
you completely dismiss something someone just says to you?

Atlantic City sea scallops accompanied the corn, with
soybean/chile paste, and cherry tomatoes, mozzarella,
thyme, basil, and chives in a pile to the side. 

Oh yeah.  We bought the first of the Jersey peaches this
morning too.  The juice ran down our cheeks all the way
down to the boat.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pig Roast

I'd always been intrigued by a pig roast, and when the monumental
occasion of my daughter's High School graduation presented
itself we decided that a whole hog would be a fitting centerpiece
to a day of celebration.  We were right in thinking so.

Two days earlier, I picked the pig up at the butcher's and brought
it home to prepare for the big day.  With a marinade syringe I
injected the larger portions of the pig with an apple cider and
brown sugar brine, which was to moisten as well as flavor
an otherwise fairly mild-tasting meat. I found as the pig roasted
slowly for 9 hours, some of the brine oozed out of the needle
holes and caramelized on the outside of the skin; kind of like
self-basting.  Later in the day when I tapped the keg, the first 
few cups of foam that were drawn were ceremoniously
poured over the pig as well, for added flavor of course.

I learned a few things from my first attempt at roasting a whole
hog.  First off, you can't start cooking early enough.  My
pig started turning at 8:30 a.m. They say to allow an hour for 
cooking every 10 pounds of pig at 250 degrees.  The final
internal temperature of the pig must be at least 160, especially
in the thicker sections of the roast.  In a charcoal roaster with an 
open top, in my opinion, there's no exact science to maintaining
a constant temperature of 250, unless of course I just haven't
figured it out yet.  I used about 140 pounds of charcoal, adding 
around 15 pounds to the embers per hour.  In retrospect, the grill 
probably could have been hotter over the course of the day, as
the meat was certainly cooked through and moist, but it wasn't
coming off of the bone as easily as I had envisioned it.  Guests
seemed to enjoy it nevertheless, and we will continue to be fed
by this roast for many meals to come.

I also didn't foresee this job of serving being so incredibly tricky.
 Even after letting the pig rest for over a half hour after removing
it from the rotisserie, the inside was still quite hot, which made
getting a hold of it rather challenging.  Add to that a good amount
of grease (yes, pigs do have a lot of fat) and it's a slippery
hot assignment.  There must be some kind of heat/grease
resistant gloves that I can use next time.  I can see the BBQ
experts reading this right now, doubled over and laughing O L.

Being one who never likes to let anything go to waste, the next
day I put the remaining parts of the hog into two of my largest 
stockpots and simmered them for 24 hours.  I would find out
the next day that the constant heat and moisture from the pots
fried the smartboard in my over-the-range microwave.  To 
repair it, I found out, would be twice the amount it would cost
to replace it.  A new one is coming tomorrow.  No more 24
hour cooking.

One of the products of killing the microwave was about 10 
pounds of extremely tender pork, which I painstakingly removed
from the bones.  This I divided into five piles, vacuum sealed,
and put in the basement freezer for future pulled pork sandwiches.

After straining the two pots, I had 5 gallons of beautiful stock,
which I boiled down to just under 3 quarts of rich, dark glace.

After cooling the glace, I cut it into sections to freeze.  This glace
has an incredibly high gelatin content due to the bones and 
especially  the trotters.  This will be the base for sauce in the 
future or a glaze for roasted potatoes or vegetables, or simply
re-constituted and used as broth for soup.   This pig went a 
long way for us and we're grateful for its noble existence.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Whole Hog!

Patiently awaiting the charcoal spit-roaster, this 87 pound hog is
going to be the centerpiece of my daughter's High School
graduation party on Saturday.  Tomorrow, I'll inject an apple
cider brine and let it marinate overnight.  Saturday at 8:00 a.m.
it'll start slow-roasting and hopefully around 4:00 we'll have
crispy skin and juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat.  I call the cheeks!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Clams Casino

Dad used to shuck the clams, sprinkle chopped raw onions and
green peppers on each one, then place a square of bacon on top.
Simple.  Broil til done and the bacon curls up.  Then, several dashes
of tabasco later, scrape out the contents of the shell with your two
front teeth, chew and wash down with cold beer.

I usually find a way to make everything more complicated and
time-consuming.  I partially steam the clams with vermouth just
until I can get a clam knife inside the shell.  Saving the liquid in
the pot, I discard the top shells, free the clam from its adductor
muscle in the bottom half  and line the clams up on a sheet pan.

Saute diced yellow and red peppers, onions, and garlic with fresh
thyme and Old Bay seasoning.  Add some of the vermouth/clam juice
mixture and reduce.  When dry, set aside to cool.

Using a teaspoon, scoop the mixture onto each clam, turning the
spoon upside down and patting the mound firmly within the shell,
creating a domed shape.  Lay a square of  uncooked, room
temperature bacon on top of each, allowing it to conform to
the shape of the mound.  The clams are ready for a 400-450
degree oven until the bacon is rendered and crispy.  If you're
not heating them right away, throw them in the freezer for a
couple of hours.  When the bacon freezes in the dome shape,
it tends not to curl when cooked.  Tastes the same, but visually
they are alot more uniform looking, if you give a crap.

Cold beer is great with clams casino, but a Tanqueray 10
Gibson fits the bill nicely as well.  Is it five o'clock yet?   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let's Roll

Rice spring roll wrappers make any leftovers fun
to eat and frankly, really cool looking.  It helps to
have some basic asian ingredients handy.  This roll
contained chicken, which I slow-roasted on the
Weber grill the other night, sliced crimini mushrooms,
shredded cabbage, and Thai basil leaves.  Then,
after a drizzle of oyster sauce and some chile paste,
I rolled her up tight.  It's a great, light alternative to
a sandwich, and the wrappers keep indefinitely
 in the pantry until you're ready to roll.