Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We All Screamed...

For Corn On The Cob!


You probably thought I was going to say Ice Cream, right? There is some of that mentioned here.

Hubby's family as I have mentioned in the past lives in and around Jersey, New York City, and on Long Island. One of our favorite trips out is to the north fork when the season peaks for seafood and fresh vegetables. We all start gathering from May until August for these kinds of family celebrations that are laced with good fresh local grown food, and fun.

I was pretty excited to make my first batch of homemade ice cream in this old hand-crank version I bought at a flea market recently for only a dollar. Oh the memories attached to these!

Some fresh bought ingredients, lots of thinking on what kind of flavor, a soft shell crab dinner, and my hubby's birthday made this an exciting bargain for me.

Did I just hear someone say "Who wants to do this the old way, when we can buy a new version". Well its not about convenience here; its about quality time, and keeping memories alive. I cannot tell you how many times I sat on my mom's ice cream bucket, and took turns cranking it with family members. Oh, the thought of creamy delight right out of the bucket is something to scream about!

Hubby and I took turns cranking/churning, and it only took thirty minutes from pouring in the mixture to the finished product! Of course I made the cooked custard the night before, and chilling it helps to set the ice cream faster.

They say that if grandpa can't turn it anymore, then its got to be ready!

No time for pretty photos on this trip (you get a peak at my pretty PJ's, and chubby ankles, he he), as we were running all around the North Forth of Long Island visiting hubby's family. My friend Gen tagged along with me, and we gathered ingredients for his birthday party.

Fire up the grill for the lime, basil, butter basted corn, orange marinated Long Island Duck, and Bourbon Salmon to accompany the rest below...

Soft shell crab season begins in May and ends in July (depends on location, some may end earlier). The prices surprised me, and usually the medium to small size are available to the public. Restaurants get first pick of the larger varieties...

I flash fried the soft shell crabs in some beer batter, and then it was drizzled with sweet pineapple/pepper sauce; served over rice, and along with Insalata caprese...

Oh, and that 'Butter Boy' is one of our favorite table conversation pieces...Donna-FFW would love to be in on that conversation...

With some help, a few bottles of Long Island wine, friends and family, and some good food, we three hubby a great shindig!

Oh, and we tried the Honey Apple Cinnamon Custard/Ice Cream two a bowl with chocolate cinnamon cookie crumbled in the bowl, and as sandwiches with oatmeal raisin cookies.

Did I mention a pie? Oh my...

Honey Apple Cinnamon Custard/Ice Cream

6 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into pieces
(splash of lime into bowl of water while cutting apples)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider

Cook until tight, cool, and then add to cream mixture below once heated.

6 eggs, beaten till fluffy
1 half gallon of heavy cream
1 cups brown sugar, or sugar will do

On stove begin to heat cream, and add eggs and sugar, cook for about twenty minutes on medium heat; add apple mixture, and blend well; remove and place in container to remain in refrigerator over night. Stir, and then place in ice cream maker. Crank until ice cream freezes.

You may follow any ice cream recipe, but I studied a few and came up with my own version. Once the ice cream froze I placed the bucket into the freezer. I had read that if you freeze the mixture it will not be as good, but we found left for the day, and eating after dinner it was fine. Even the next day it still was just as good. I packaged up some for guest to take home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Southwest Foodservice Expo, 2009

Well I am back from a long weekend in Riverhead, New York. My hubby's step-mom lives in the area, and we always go out a few times each year. Normally she does not let me cook, because there are too many good restaurants and wineries to hit. We always have a good visit, but this time I got my way by telling her I wanted to hunt down some remaining soft shell crab for hubby's birthday surprise.

As I am reviving from all the bustle, and trying to get back into the groove of work this week... I thought I would share one last look back on my Texas Travels...

My friend Cheryl got excited when I told her I had bought tickets for us to go to a restaurant and food show in downtown Dallas, the Southwest Foodservice Expo. I explained to her I had not been in quite a few years, and this show would be an adventure for her if she went with me. Not sure if she was up for all the sales pitches, but I mentioned the array of food and libations we would get to sample. No lunch purchases, no reservations!

The minute you hit the door you are given a bag to place all your samples (non-edible) and sales literature in. After hitting the floor we made our game plan. Go to the right, and just go up and down each isle, around, and then make our way to the far left, and if we could move from all the food we ate we would head home.

Cheryl and I talk about the different equipment used in commercial kitchens versus private homes. She is in a culinary wonderland as she walks around with her mouth dropped to the floor at all the things she sees. These pulled sugar displays were something to wow at!

We talked about all the things she sees on The Food Network compared to what is around us. Awww its Elsie the cow!

...and Borden brought the baby along, but he was not too interested in saying hello...they would turn him around, and he would just turn and sit right back duty I guess!

I saw chef jackets that had my culinary school's logo, and asked if my old boss and culinary department director was here, Karen Musa. She heard my voice and turned around...

Students get credit for helping work in different food areas of the show, and also the school sets up a table to of my ex-duties when working for the department. There is also a competition for different chef's associations that allow students to help, and learn all at the same time...

Many food competitions are being held through out the three days of the show, and my good friend, Morris Salerno of The Grotto in Flower Mound is the winner of this years 'Best of the Southwest Pizza Competition'. His pizza was judged the best of the 14 competitors. Congratulations!

Many of the winners had already been judged for the day before we arrived, but it was still fun to look at what was left on the tables. There are also a few celebrities in the house...

Any Dallas Cowboy fans out there know who this is?

I always looked forward to going to the Expo when I lived in Dallas, but I guess I can always use it as an excuse to come visit again each year? Nah, my friends are a good excuse! Cheryl was tired when it was time to go, but she sure had a great time. We also love our massage pillows I purchased. One for hubby, and one for her early birthday present.

If you notice one in your area, and you do not work in the food service field, but know someone who does...well, see if they will take you. With the various education, food demonstrations, and competitions; it is an interesting and education experience for even just a foodie!

PS- Cheryl the samples have started coming in the mail...sorry you are not here to relive the moment...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Donna-FFW, Hot Italians, and Buns?

Most of you know Donna-FFW right? Well she is the Goddess of some fabulous food porn, and if you read her blog you might find yourself wanting your own blog full of naughty-ness. There is nothing wrong with letting your hair down, and getting wild and crazy. I could not help myself today. She has shown us that we can express ourselves without compromising our true purpose of showing off some tasty talents, and I am glad she has never caved in to the haters!

My hubby has been working out of town off and on for months now. Coming and going, coming and coming...home late at night, and leaving me to fend for myself. The summer months have already suppressed my appetite, but when you find yourself alone...well, who wants to cook up some fru fru food when you can go out ...or, when you are out just hook yourself up with some Italian hottie that will take care of those wanton desires you keep locked deep deep inside... My son did tell me I am old enough to be a cougar...that does mean I am a carnivore right?

Why should I deny myself just because hubby is not here to please me the way I deserve, and I do live in what I call Little Italy. New Jersey is known for many things, but I never realized that I would be surrounded by so many Italian goodies when we were thinking of moving Italian Deli's full of all kinds of juicy and mouthwatering goodies. I have always liked my goods HOT, and of course it gets hot after you heat it up, but what I want is the really spicy fantasy that brings on the sweat! Sweat in the summer time is a good thing; its a way of keeping us cool and hot all at the same time. Making us want more, and more...

What I brought home was not as long as what you might have seen on Donna's most recent post, but I never felt size mattered; its the end result! She sure knows how to show off the really big ones on her site. She has a handsome FFH (Fire Fighter Husband) who can handle his hose, and has his on way of slow cooking her...Ummm those long and lean loins of hers!

I have to have to have some nice soft, but firm buns to house my meat, and I might could take on two, the way I feel right now...I just seem to be hungry for more! Even though hubby is gone I still have that good hand know to slice them open...

How about something with a nice lubricant to slide that big boy down! I made my favorite paprika potato salad with lemon dill vinegar, onion, celery, boiled red bliss, and some paprika aoili...

If you are going to take it all in with one bite, well, why not make it a little extra extra big by adding some tomato right out of the garden (the small red one at the bottom, thanks to my friends Adrienne and Bob's garden), and how about some home made sour kraut! I have been craving this, and hubby is not fond of it, so a little will go a long way... I wanted something BIG and BOLD to wrap my lips around...and if that was not enough, I add horseradish mustard to make sure the heat is really pumped go with that cold beer sitting next to my plate...

Oh, face it, I am not as good as Donna, but my mind IS in the gutter right now. That is what my hubby would say if he saw what I was about to put in my mouth, or what just came out of it!

Now its time to eat this, and I promise it will be messy; its not fun if its not messy now and then. I am sure it will drip down my chin, and onto other areas I should not mention. Come to mama baby while daddy's not looking!

What is your favorite food to fix when the significant other is not looking? Come on share, or just giggle...

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

I cannot help it. Once I started pitting that bucket of fresh cherries that I used for the Gazpacho, and some other things coming up, I had to use them up. Sure we ate one every five that I pitted, but hubby had gone nuts buying as much as he did. He does not cook, so how would he know that I had to come up with so many creative ideas for using them.

On a trip to the market I had seen cookies on a display. Old fashion oatmeal cookies with raisins. You know when you buy things like that, well you are taking a risk getting something fresh, and I like mine soft and chewy, not hard and crunchy. Oh, I am sure some of you out there like your cookies crunchy, so just take this recipe and bake them a little longer...and do not forget I changed raisins to cherries. Pulsate them in the lil'chopper, and add some nuts if you like. My first batch was forgotten, because we were watching a movie. They were eaten even with the extra browned edges. The rest of them were perfectly chewy and yummy. Just the way I like them!

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

1 1/4 cups Butter
3/4 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
3 cups Oats quick or old-fashioned
1 cup chopped cherries
1 container dark chocolate baking nibs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat margarine and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add combined flour, baking soda, salt and spices; mix well. Stir in oats and cherries.

I took the dough and rolled it up in wax paper and let it slightly freeze; then slice 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Bake 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies.

Remove from cookie sheet, and quickly add a piece of dark chocolate nib on flat side, and place another on top; let cool. Remove to wire rack.

Store tightly covered, if they last that long!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fresh Summer Cherry Gazpacho

One of my favorite dishes to see on restaurants menus when summer hits is Gazpacho. I am so crazy about tomatoes, and have stated many times about how my grandmother grew an abundance supply around her entire back fence. I was much older when I had my first taste of this cold version of a pureed soup-salad.

Gazpacho recipes can vary greatly in terms of ingredient composition, texture and viscosity. This usually depends on the geographical location as well as family traditions. This bowl of liquid salad originally came from Spain. Cookbook author Anya Von Bremzen says on The Splendid Table that "gazpacho" comes from the word "caspa," which means "to break into fragments."

Authentic recipes call for old bread, olive oil, vinegar, and a few vegetables you might have on hand. History tells us vegetables and fruit were not even a part of the original meal eaten by field workers when they took their breaks. Tomatoes are not even a must, and cucumbers did not even come into the picture until they were brought over from the new world to Europe. I have made sweet watermelon versions in previous line positions that contained jalapeno to give it a nice balance.

Gazpacho became popular as a posh entertaining must serve dish in the early 1960's; it also began showing up in American cookbooks, and has remained a popular dish in our country since.

I had to laugh at my gadget buying hubby when I saw this cherry seed remover. Sometimes things like this tend to clutter up the gadget drawer, but I will admit it comes in handy when you buy a few pounds of the fruit. I have found a few other used for it in my work as well!

Since I had purchased so many cherries I planned to use them in a sweet savory version of gazpacho, and also use some of my home made ricotta along side my cherry BBQ glazed shrimp.

Most gazpachos are, simply, made wrong, says Mr. Clifford (below) of most gazpachos served in our country. The authentic versions are more of a finely pureed cold soup that are not garnished, but simply placed at the bowls side in traditional Andalusias way.

Here is more history I found on Gazpacho that I thought some of you might like to read. Curteousy of Clifford A. Wright, James Beard recognized, cookbook author, and authority on food history of Mediterranean cuisine.

There are two Andalusias, the country-side and the seacoast--and represented by gazpacho from the country and pescados fritos (fried fish) from the sea. Gazpacho is a liquid salad from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, made of ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic, and bread moistened with water that is blended with olive oil, vinegar, and ice water and served cold. It is Andalusia's best known dish and probably originated as a soup during the time when Spain was part of the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, a soup the Spanish call an ajo blanco, which contained garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Ajo blanco is today associated with Málaga and made with fresh grapes. The Marquesa de Parabere claims, in Historia de la gastronomia, that garlic soup, sopa de ajo, constitutes one of Spain's two contributions to soup making, the other being cocida or olla, which migrated to France as pot-au-feu.

The most familiar versions are those from Seville and Córdoba, and the oldest version is probably from Córdoba and was made of bread, garlic, oil, and water. Gazpacho comes in a variety of different intraregional versions, some of which contain almonds, and no tomatoes and peppers (tomatoes and peppers came to gazpacho after Columbus). Some food writers believe that a dish which has vinegar points to Roman provenance, whose culinary culture popularized vinegar. This seems a little too much of a generalization, though.

Gazpacho is traditionally made in a mortar and the bread is ideal when it is about a week old. The bread and vegetable mixture is pounded to a paste, and then you begin to add the tomatoes, then the olive oil, and finally the vinegar, tasting all the time to make sure you've got it right. The tomatoes should always go through a sieve so there are no seeds in the finished dish.

The emergence of the popularity of gazpacho out of Andalusia into the rest of Spain is said by Alicia Rios and Lourdes March, authors of Spanish cookbooks, to be the result of Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of the French Emperor Napoleon III in the nineteenth century. Gazpacho was unknown, or little known, in the north of Spain before about 1930. And it is not always liquid, nor does it always contain tomatoes. According to Juan de la Mata in his Arte de reposteria published in 1747, the most common gazpacho was known as capon de galera consisting of a pound of bread crust soaked in water and put in a sauce of anchovy bones, garlic, and vinegar, sugar, salt and olive oil and letting it soften. Then one adds "some of the ingredients and vegetables of the Royal Salad [a salad composed of various fruits and vegetables]." Interestingly, capon de galera is thought to be an historical predecessor to the Sicilian caponata.

An American cookbook published in 1963 tells us that "gazpacho, the soup-salad of Spain, has become an American food fashion." The author, Betty Wason, goes on to tells us that in Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife published in 1824, there is a recipe for gazpacho. The French poet and critic, Théophile Gautier (1811-72) wrote about gazpacho, too.

There is also gazpacho de antequera, made with homemade mayonnaise blended with lemon juice and egg whites and pounded garlic and almonds; gazpacho de Granada is made with pounded garlic, cumin, salt, bell peppers, and tomatoes, with olive oil added until creamy, then water and bread go on top. Gazpacho de la serrania de Huelva, from the mountainous country around Huelva, is a puree of garlic, paprika, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers with sherry vinegar and olive oil stirred in until creamy and served with cucumber and croutons. Salmorejo Córdobés (also translated as rabbit sauce) is made with garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, and moistened bread pounded into a paste, with olive oil stirred in until it has the consistency of a puree. It is served with eggs, oranges, and toasted bread. Sopa de almendras is an almond soup; gazpacho caliente uses hot peppers. There are also gazpachos with green beans or pine nuts.

The origin of the word gazpacho is uncertain, but etymologists believe it might be derived from the Mozarab word caspa, meaning "residue" or "fragments," an allusion to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a gazpacho soup. On the other hand, it may be a pre-Roman Iberian word modified by the Arabic. One will hear a lot about Mozarab when speaking of historic Andalusia. "Mozarab" is a corruption of the Arabic must'arab, "would-be Arab," those Hispano- Romans who were allowed to practice their religion on condition of owing their allegiance to the Arab caliph as opposed to the muwalladun, Hispano-Romans who converted to Islam.

José Briz, who wrote a book on gazpacho, also suggests that the word derives from the Hebrew gazaz, meaning to break into pieces, referring to the bread base. Gazpacho was traditionally eaten by workers in the fields, whether they were vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields or cork farms. Originally gazpacho was nothing but bread, water, and olive oil, all pounded in a large wooden bowl called a dornillo; it was poor people's food.

Summer Cherry Gazpacho

1 pound good summer, or heirloom tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1/2 a small onion, roughly chopped
1 small green pepper, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, roughly chopped
8 ounces sweet summer cherries, seeded
1 cup of watermelon pieces
1 slice bread (use any bread with some density)
1 tablespoon blueberry-basil vinegar I purchased in the PNW
Salt/White Pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a blender and process until smooth, or just pulsate each ingredient to get a slightly textured gazpacho (hubby likes his to have some chewy texture).

Serve topped with ricotta cheese, smoked shrimp like mine or fresh crab meat.

Cherry BBQ Glaze for Shrimp...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Smoked Bluefish Pie

After talking with a blog from the Friday Shoot Out Team, Gordon (who is an avid fisherman) about non-cooking related topics; I mention that hubby requested me cook his prized catch, bluefish for our weekend dinner. Gordon says "I have only smoked them", and I agree that finding recipes for this fish were difficult.

Bluefish is an oily fish that is found and caught off the Nova Scotia coast down to Florida where Gordon resides. This fish is commonly caught off the waters of New Jersey, and can be found occasionally on menus in some restaurants. The fillets are not a popular fish to serve due to its meats coloration. Coloration is a grayish blue-green dorsally, fading to white on the lower sides and belly.

I had no difficulty with separating the unappetizing dark flesh from the tasty and firm texture of the white meat for my pie. Catching the bluefish can be easy, but removing it from the hook is another story with its razor sharp teeth.

What a great pairing it was. The cherry-tomato glazed smoked bluefish with my house made ricotta cheese (ricotta cheese instruction blog at a later date), flash sauteed tiny cubed potatoes, Vidalia onions strips, and a dollop of cream cheese. I did not stir the mixture together, nor added heavy cream, because I wanted a lighter and less rich pie. The flavor of the smoked fish rang out this way, along with the ricotta cheese. Light, and flavorful was the goal.

Take some fresh tomatoes and cherries and make a BBQ glaze for the bluefish, and any other ingredients you might want throw in the smoker...

Cherries have been in abundance, so I have made quite a few dishes with this ingredient in the past few weeks.

Assemble the pie, and place some puff pastry crust on top, and bake!

Next...a summer and Jersey fresh cherry Gazpacho...

Cherry BBQ Sauce

1 medium onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 cups fresh, seeded/strained crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 cups fresh seeded cherries, crushed

1. In a medium saucepan, cook the onion over medium-high heat, until it softens, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, tomato paste, sugar, and cherries and cook 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.

2. Transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade and blend until smooth. Transfer to a plastic container and keep cold in a refrigerator or ice-filled cooler until ready to use or for up to one week (will appear dark).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jersey Fresh- Blueberries

This time of the year you will see signs dotting what I call 'back roads' in my neighborhood. Many small farms still are running in spite of the housing explosion here.

Most of the signs read 'Jersey Fresh', and one thing we look forward to...Jersey Blueberries! On my way home from running errands I stopped at one of the local farm stands, and purchased some...

Highbush Blueberries deserve some recognition, and New Jersey are proud of their crops! Go check out the history of how early settlers learned to harvest them from the Native Americans, and began serving them for Thanksgiving...

Hubby loves blueberries more than the cereal that lay underneath. Yeah, my fun lovin' cereal eating man, and one of his other favorite foods is when I bake these babies into a dessert.

My goal was to make a blueberry chutney. One of my signature recipes that I always incorporate with dark chocolate. I manage to add some into my diet this past week. The above 'blon-cake' is a little rough around the edges like me, but so sweet!

Have you ever had one of those moments though when you do not have enough ingredients to make something, but you might be able to pull off something else? Well that is what happened with this dessert. I call it 'Blon-cake'. Not blonde brownies, but not cake either?

Yeah, I adjusted a blonde brownie recipe I use, added more butter and eggs. Due to a lack of chocolate powder in my spice cabinet to make regular brownies, and an over eagerness to make 'something'...well, lets just call it a not so pretty and tasty 'creation'.

I am always the first to admit that baking is not one of my favorite things, but like doing it now and then. The blueberries, ingredients, and what chocolate I did have available...made this dessert a hit with the hubby!

Blueberry Blon-Cake

1 1/2 stick butter or margarine (4 ounces), room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I only had about half of this, and blended with raw sugar)
3 egg
2 cups unbleached baking flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts (replace with blueberries)
1 cup (about 8 ounces) dark baking chocolate; break into pieces


Cream together the butter and brown sugar; melt 1/2 cup chocolate and stir in; beat in eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in nuts and the rest of the chocolate. Spread batter in a greased and floured 7- X 11-inch pan. Take a small spoon and dollop some blueberry chutney here and there on top of batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

I decided these might have even been better with some walnuts, so next time! If anyone would like my blueberry chutney recipe just email me and I will share...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not always pretty and some things in between...

Things have been busy since I returned from Texas, but once again I have had allergies get the best of me, and not up to posting my creations. I have been cooking, and will be teaching my classes starting next week, so until then...I will post a few random things.

Recently I read a post on how presenting food that is attractive is more appealing. I do agree that when something looks pretty I might be more compelled to taste it. Now and then though I hear about a dish that taste fantastic, but it is in casserole form and it is not so pretty. One such dish was the 'Tator Tot Casserole', as presented in the above dish. This is just one of those things no matter what dish you reach for to serve it up...well, its just not going to spoon out right...

Down south I had to opportunity to meet a few blogs I follow, and follow me. One of whom, Allie@Fresh Confessions of a Screwed Up Texan. I like her photography, and well her writing style is just too darn cute.

After talking via email a few times I decided it was time to show hubby not all blogs are fictitious characters, or would harm me in any way. Many of you out there are just darn friendly, and I would love to meet you in person one day!

Blogging has brought a big big world... in very tight. I had to laugh when I showed up, because Allie brought along her 'friend', or should I say body guard (name to be kept private). Allie's hubby also called while we were visiting, and that made me laugh. No I did not tie her up, or hold her for ransom! We realized that she could be my daughter (her mother and I went to the same high school) with her giggles, sense of humor, and her creative talents. I look forward to a long friendship with both of them!

We discussed taking better photos, she showed me a few tricks with my camera, we aimed at each other, aimed at the waiter, and the waiter thought we were nuts. Talked about her secret garden of blackberries that she will not reveal even to an out of town'er (Allie do you hear me... next time right!), and about the joys of motherhood, cooking, and life's ugly side...

When we talked about meeting; there were two places left I wanted to (re)taste before leaving Texas. Call me silly, but I long for IHOP's multi-grain pancakes (they have my name written all over them?), because the only one in Jersey is too far away.

Also, how about one last plate of sour cream enchiladas from Don Pepe's where my house still sits. I did get a little sad seeing my old neighborhood, and thought "Wow we did have a great house here", but then remembered the 117 degree heat, as I was sitting in my comfortable air conditioned rental... Until we meet again my precious flavors of the south...