Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September? WTF?

Labor Day celebrations are like getting shots at the doctor's office. Sure you get a lollipop, but it hurts like a kick in the pants. It's the official end of summer cook outs, time for kids to head back to school, and time for warm weather to start slowly (hopefully slowly) melting away. Not that I don't heart fall, especially in New England with all the leaves changing colors and apple picking and pumpkins, but I'm a summer girl at heart.

Our family celebrates this last bash of summer every year with a big Lobster Fest at my uncle's house in RI. We (well, the boys) drag a bunch of picnic tables over from the local Boy Scout camp, cover them with plastic sheets, and gorge ourselves on sea cockroaches that were swimming just that morning. Well, everyone else does. I don't do lobster. I know, I know, the horror! Growing up surrounded by the stuff and I can't even stomach it. The carnage left by 15 lobster guzzling adults is pretty disturbing. Every year I bring something else to cook for myself and the few finicky little kids who would rather have a hot dog than wrangle with a red shelled beast. They like playing with the live ones and screaming when they snap their claws, but they aren't about to eat the things. I totally get it. I don't want my food glaring at me, either.

This skirt steak is a super quick dish that takes literally minutes to cook. If you do the marinating and the chimichurri before you head to a party, this is a great option for a Labor Day cookout. And it won't require tools and swearing to eat.

Marinated Skirt Steak with Tomatoes and Chimichurri

1 1/2 lbs. skirt steak
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
1-3 Tbls. olive oil

In a large ziploc bag, combine extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, red pepper, basil, salt and pepper. Add steak to the bag and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
Place cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 Tbls. olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add more oil if needed to make a paste. Add chopped tomatoes to herb paste and stir to combine.
Cook steak over a preheated grill for 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes before slicing on the bias. Serve topped with tomatoes and chimichurri.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

From the Archives

I've started combing through old files in an attempt to organize and clean up my computer. In doing so, I've found a bunch of photos of food I never posted, recipes I may have partially forgotten, and some really crappy lighting. At least I've fixed that problem, for the most part! This one is from last October, and I remember, at least vaguely, that they were really good. They have bacon in them, so how could they not be? I must have planned on posting them, since I have in-progress shots, but who knows why I never did. Lazy? Me? Never.

BBQ Bleu Cheese Mini Meatloaves (aka Meat Muffins)

1 lb. ground turkey
3 slices of bacon. cut into quarters
1/2 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg white
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, gently mix turkey, garlic, egg white, 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, and bread crumbs; season with salt and pepper and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Divide into twelve portions. Place each portion into muffin cups, making a small well in the center. Divide bleu cheese evenly among muffins. Fold turkey mixture over the cheese and pinch to seal. Top each muffin with a piece of bacon and brush with some of the remaining BBQ sauce. Bake for 25 minutes, basting again with remaining BBQ sauce halfway through cooking and at the end.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sloppy Joe, Sloppy, Sloppy Joe

Did you guys know that Mark Bittman writes a monthly feature for Cooking Light Magazine? I somehow missed that fact, even though I have a stack of recent issues sitting on my coffee table. Could be because that stack is 47 issues high and includes 90% food magazines. They get kind of lost together, and even though I skim through each issue as it comes in, I never really read through most of them. I started editing the pile this week. I set aside issues by month and started with the oldest, pulling out any recipes I want to try  and tossing the rest in my Freecycle pile. (What? You don't Freecycle? Get on it, girl!) I stumbled upon this recipe in the middle of all of my shredding and filing and drooling. So good, you guys! It's just as saucy and flavorful as the typical Sloppy Joe, but so much better for you. I even used ground turkey instead of sirloin, so that took the fat level down even more. If you want to make this dish vegan, I suppose you could use tofu or some Smart Ground or something. It's worth it, just grab some napkins before you dig in!

Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes
Mark Bittman's Less Meat, More Flavor, Cooking Light, May 2010

2 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped white onion
1 Tbls. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 oz. ground sirloin, pork, turkey, or tofu
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 c. crushed tomato
1 (15.5 oz.) can red beans, drained and rinsed
HBin5 Avocado buns for serving
red onion for garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper and ground meat to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until meat is browned and veggies are tender, stirring occasionally to crumble meat.
Add carrot, chili powder, sugar, oregano, and red pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened. Partially mash 1 cup of the beans with a fork. Stir mashed beans and remaining whole beans into the meat mixture. Cook about a minute or until heated. Serve over buns with red onion garnish.

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Seriously, this is your last chance

Fresh corn is already getting difficult to find around here and September is disturbingly close. Some of your kids may already be back in school. It's disgusting and terrifying, and this is pretty much your last chance to throw a late summer cookout before you have to get into full back to school mode. Run, don't walk to your market and grab some corn, some burgers, and a big bottle of tequila, cause if your September stress is anything like mine can be, you're gonna need it. 

Now to make the side dish that will become your go-to summer side dish for ever and ever amen. You guys all know how to grill corn, right? If you haven't done it this summer, you'd better get your butts in gear. I've made this salad at least a dozen times and it is always gone too fast, much like 85 degree sunny beach days. Just make sure you remove all of the hanging leaves and silk from the top of your ears of corn (grab hold tight and twist your wrist, that should take care of it) and soak them in water for 5 minutes or so. If you wanna go crazy, pull back the husks a bit, smear the corn with butter, salt, pepper, and cumin, and fold the husks back up before grilling. For this salad, I don't bother because there are so many other components. You can mix them up any way you want to; substitute soy beans for black beans, use yellow squash or green peppers. It's all good.

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

4 ears of corn
2 large red peppers
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbls. honey
2 Tbls. red wine vinegar
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. cumin

On a preheated outdoor grill or grill pan, cook ears of corn in husks for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn every five minutes. Remove and allow to cool 5 minutes before handling. While corn cooks, grill peppers and zucchini until just blackened. About 5 minutes per side. Remove and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. When corn has cooled enough to handle, remove husks and slice off the cob. Toss corn, pepper, zucchini, and onion with all remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk honey, juices, oil and vinegar in a small bowl and pour over vegetables. Toss to coat.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Put 'em up

Back in college, I always thought of myself as an independent spirit. I worked full time while in school full time, paying for my own apartment, going out all the time, and generally enjoying myself through all sorts of tomfoolery. I never took a class before 10 AM, my weekends started on Thursdays, and there was never a shortage of girlfriends to take out dancing. Through some sort of miracle, my head stayed screwed on through it all, and I managed to graduated with honors and land a job right out of school. I could say with confidence that my job and fun were at the top of my priority list.

Oh, how things change. It only took about a year for me to realize that I would be completely burned out by the time I was 25 if I kept moving at the same speed. Little by little, I started to slow down. Nowadays, I feel like I can actually sit still. We may not even move this year. I'm as domesticated as a Guernsey cow. I never thought I'd be baking my own bread, canning jams, and making pickles. I'm turning into my great grandmother, and it's a very comfortable place indeed.

Sweet and Sour Pickles
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine, August 2010

2 lbs. ( 4 or 5 depending on size) cucumbers, sliced into rounds
2 cups rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbls. black peppercorns
1 Tbls. sesame seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Combine, vinegars, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Set aside.
Toss cucumber slices with all remaining ingredients in a 9x13 baking dish. Pour hot vinegar mixture over the top and toss well. Let stand two hours.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Transfer to pint jars and store in the fridge.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Peachy Keen

I'm kind of a spazz when it comes to visiting the farmer's market. I usually go with a few things in mind, like a recipe I want to try or a certain seller I want to see, but then I get there and get distracted like a toddler and start touching and smelling everything and get dizzy and forget what I originally wanted. I guess it's not really a bad thing, unless you end up coming home with almost 10 pounds of peaches and 3 gourmet pickles. Yeah. That was the bounty E and I came home with this week. We couldn't carry anything else.

So, what does one do with that many peaches? Even the farmer guys wanted to know. One asked if I was making a pie. Yeah dude, I'm making a 10 pound peach pie! Going for the record! Which, by the way, is apparently held by someone in South Carolina, while the World's Largest Peach Cobbler was made in Georgia. No surprises there. But no, no pies here, and no cobblers, either. I decided to can most of them and use the rest to make jam. Last year I made Caramel Spiced Jam with my peaches, which was part of pretty much everyone in the family's Christmas gifts, but I wanted to try something different. This new jam came out so stupid delicious, I don't think I'm giving it to anyone. Make your own.

Ginger Peach Jam
6 cups peeled, chopped peaches (about 9-10 peaches, depending on size)
3 cups sugar
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into large chunks
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4-6 8 oz. jars with lids
large, heavy bottomed pot
Pressure Canner, or another large pot
Potato masher, immersion blender, or food processor

Add all ingredients to a large pot and stir over medium high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Mash peaches using a potato masher or immersion blender (Don't have one? You can use a food processor. Just remove jam from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer peach chunks to the food processor. Pulse a few times and return to the pot.). Continue cooking and stirring for 5 more minutes until jam thickens*. Remove ginger and cinnamon sticks. Pour immediately into hot, sterilized jars.

Wipe the rims of jars with a clean towel and twist lids on tightly. Place jars in the second pot or your canner. Pour in hot water to cover jars by an inch or two. Boil for 5 minutes, remove jars and let sit at room temperature. Listen for the little pling sound as each lid pops. If any of the lids didn't seal, just put them in the fridge and eat before the month is up!

*Testing jam: If you've never made jam, you'll want to test it before pouring it into jars. Just pop a plate into the freezer before you start. Once it looks thick, place a teaspoon of jam on the plate and freeze for 2 minutes. If the jam has thickened and doesn't run down the plate, you're good to go. If it is runny, cook for 3 more minutes and then test again.

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