Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bluberry Vodka

I have been looking at my posts for the summer and the two things that seem to be getting a heck of a work out are my martini glasses and pork tenderloin.  I am sitting here on my day off thinking of what to blog about and all I seem to have ready is a martini and a smoked pork tenderloin recipe.  I have plans to start some other things today but I am so busy...  My plans today include:

Take the kiddos to daycare
Go to Menards
Watch The Next Food Network Star and a 43 year old episode of Star Trek
Eat lunch with my beautiful wife
Get some stuff together for another blog post
Go to the grocery store
Lay in the pool reading with a drink in my hand
Pick up kiddos and make dinner

As you can see my day is full, my thinking is blog about the Martini today then when I am working this weekend take a few minutes of slacker time and post about the Pork Tenderloin, I know the meat comes up a lot, but this the best one that I have done in a while so come back in a couple of days!

This particular drink starts a few weeks ago I made a Green Tea, Mint and Rum drink and a Blogger Friend of mine (I hope that I can call you that) TKW said something along the lines of "I love the way that you take something like green tea, loaded with antioxidants then add hooch to it."  I was joking about her comment at work one day and a Dietitian friend of mine mentioned that Blueberries were filled with antioxidants too.  So I think that it would be perfectly reasonable to say the the following recipe is both Chef and Dietitian approved (maybe without their consent).
Actually after my mind was made up about how healthy this drink would be, this drink was a few weeks in the making.  I started infusing my vodka with blueberries right before my trip to the Surgeon.  Oddly for about three weeks after abdominal surgery I didn't feel like drinking much.  When I found myself, for the most part, recovered I pulled this bottle out of the cupboard and mixed it up.  Here is how it goes.

Mix about a half cup of fresh blueberries and 16 oz of Vodka in a bottle then let them steep for a month until it is a beautiful pinkish purple color, hopefully without a trip to the hospital, but if that is what it takes to keep you out of the hooch then you may have to.

This is the simplest part pour it into a cocktail shaker with some ice and a splash of triple sec then shake.  Garnish with a lemon peel and there you have it.  This is a very sturdy drink, mostly vodka, remember that as you savor the fruity taste, one may be enough, two if you aren't driving... Three will lets just not go there.
Here it is made with Blue Curacao

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grilled Asian Hot Wings

It has been hot here in the Chicagoland area, really all week I haven't wanted to cook anything inside.  Grilling out has been the only option for hot food lately.  As a food blogger I find myself afraid of getting into a rut, "I can't do pork Tenderloin again I just did that in June!"  It happens often, like someone is out there with a list of my recipes to ready call me on any repeats.  I just found myself saying almost that the other day... I have done chicken wings before (I am sure you will see it on my Link Within widget) and wasn't sure if I should do this again.  In the end I decided to run with it if I never repeat meats I will by talking about how to cook platypus or Kimodo dragon inside of a few short weeks so grilled chicken wings a year ago shouldn't be too bad right?!?

I enjoy the flavor/texture of chicken wings cooked on the grill so much more than their baked or fried counterparts.  I wanted a little bit of a different sauce on these guys this time so started poking around the cupboard to see what I had.  My cupboards can be a little bit of an adventure sometimes, lots of little bottles and jars all of them seem to be singing "pick me, pick me"  this one ended up being pretty simple the sauce was:

1/2 cup Sriracha maybe little more I didn't measure
2-3 TBS Honey
1 TBS Soy Sauce
1 TBS Sesame Oil
1 Clove of Garlic minced
Just a little splash of rice wine vinegar

I put a little Olive Oil on 12 chicken wings (I am only cooking for me in this case) then put them cooler spot on the grill after about 5-7 minutes I turned them to cook on the other side for about the same amount of time, then put them all in my pan of hot sauce and back on the grill.  Every few minutes I pulled them off the grill and into the sauce until the sauce was mostly expended.  Whenever I make a spicy sauce like this I add a little sugar or honey so as it cooks you get the yummy, thick caramelized goodness in each bite.  I leave the pan on the grill as the wings cook then the sauce cooks down and thickens nicely the last little bit can be brushed on.  These are served with Bleu Cheese Dressing and Celery, I am thinking I could have been a little more creative with my accompaniments but just didn't have it in me that day... any ideas?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Are you serious?

I am going to blog on a slightly different subject than I usually do but stick with me for a little bit I promise to bring it around in the end, today I am going to talk about cars, specifically ones that I have owned. These days I drive a Toyota Rav4 I really love the way it feels to drive; it is comfortable, has air conditioning that works the sound system is great, good gas mileage I spend about 3 hours a day in it and think that all around it is a wonderful car. It is also the first grown-up car that I have ever had. The car that I was driving when I met Kris was a 13 year old Mercury Tracer, my mom had given it to drive me while I was going through my divorce, this car and I have about 1000 stories.  From changing a tire at 3:00 am (in a tux no less) to two lug nuts flying off on the way to work one day, people often ask me to share some of these stories, most of them are funny in a dark sense of the word.

Let me describe the car here so you get a good picture, it was an inexpensive car that was 13 years old it had a banged up fender from a small accident further damaged by falling off a jack at the above mentioned 3:00am tire change (turns out that you should park on a level surface when you change a tire). It had one hub cap; the lock on the driver's side door didn't work so I had to unlock it from the passenger's side to get in. The air conditioner didn't work at all in fact, because it had a tendency to overheat if the engine idled for more than a few minutes, I kept the heater on low all the time. Oh and the transmission was a mess, I had to start this automatic transmission in first gear and work it up to drive. It had a maximum cruising speed of 60 mph which started to become frighteningly fast on the $22.00 tires that I put on it.

Short side story here, one day I was parked on the street outside of work and somebody walked past all of the cars in the area, looked at mine and said to himself "Four bald tires, banged up fender, no hubcaps... yeah we break into this one we got it made!" Broke out my window and took all of the cash from my ash tray (almost $3.00) and a CD player with a Hello Kitty Motif (retail value $12.99 at Wal-Mart). Because I live in a rather nice suburb I decided to replace the window with a Hefty Force Flex bag, not just any crummy old garbage bag, just until the weekend when I could get an appointment for a mechanic to make fun of me while he replaced it. The next day, parked in the same spot someone actually tore open my garbage bag window, I have to assume just to kick me while I was down.

I mentioned above that the heater had to remain on at all times if I got caught in bad traffic, even on a relatively cool day, the engine would overheat and I would end up pulled over on the side of the expressway while it cooled down a bit. About four years ago the Chicago area was suffering a heat wave similar to the one we have going on now. It had been in the mid 90s and humid for several days and I was trekking home on a Friday after work, hot air blowing on my face. My afternoon commute is usually about an hour but due to construction I was looking at almost two hours that day.  I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs the hosts were just starting to mix their drinks on air (a regular Friday tradition on WLS AM) when they cut to he weather.  "It is sunny out there today and HOT the temperature is 93 but when you figure in the heat index it feels like 115."

That was it!   I was about to explode!  I screamed in anguish and pulled off my tie, took off my shoes and socks then unbuttoned my royal blue dress shirt so that maybe just maybe I could take a little just a breath of air that didn't weigh more than I did and make it home alive.  A full 45 minutes later I pulled into the lot of my favorite liquor store and was met by an angel.  I walked in  wearing untied dress shoes (no socks, I just couldn't do it) and an unbuttoned shirt, undershirt exposed, I was covered in sweat  and was greeted by a wonderful woman who said to me just as the automatic door opened, "would you like to try a spicy cucumber margarita?"  

I could only think, "cold, wet, YES!"  I got my little paper Dixie cup of margarita then picked up my Vodka, came back and got another paper cup of margarita then went to get a couple of bottles of wine then just one more drink on my way to check out.  OK maybe I wasn't in hell...  I picked up a copy of the recipe put it in my binder then lost it ... until last weekend!  As recipes often do in my house it had vanished without a trace then suddenly resurfaced just when I needed it most, during our current heat wave.
I know what you are thinking, "Spicy Cucumber Margarita?  did you cook off some brain cells in your trek to Binny's Beverage Depot?"  My only answer is, you try it and tell me.

1/2 cucumber diced
1 or 2 slices of Jalapeno about 1/4 inch thick (be careful here)
1/2 cup Taquila
juice from 2 limes
1 TBS Triple Sec (to taste really I don't like it sweet)
a handful of ice

Kosher Salt 
Chipotle Chile Powder

Put the cucumber and Jalapeno slices in a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon then add the next four ingredients and shake until ice cold.  Poor the salt onto a saucer then sprinkle a little chili powder on that, be careful a little goes a long way.  Moisten the rim of your glass and dip into your salt mixture, pour the mixture over ice and enjoy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tuna Ceviche with Arugula salad

I have been using Arugula in recipes since the late 80s love to use it... my first experience with the vegetable was Grilled Salmon Steaks with Plum Tomato and Arugula Compote. A retiring Chef that I worked with gave me a recipe when I was the caterer for a small, slightly snooty, private Midwest college. I remember so many blushing brides with their leg warmers and teased hair saying “oh, that sounds so totally awesome!" and their future husband sitting next to them saying "whatever... I mean yes sweetie that sounds great, I love arugula."

Really, let’s face it there is only one reason that we use arugula... see if you can pick it out below:
a. Arugula is wonderful and healthy, jam packed with iron and vitamin A.
b. Arugula has a beautiful, gentle peppery flavor that I just love.
c. Arugula is really fun to say and when you use it in a recipe people are impressed with your foodie knowledge.

Come on you can answer, I won't tell...

That being said this is a fun, light, summer recipe easy to make and really refreshing! I was looking for a new twist on Ceviche and came up with this, really a perfect meal for the hot summer that we are living with now.

For Ceviche:
1 pound of tuna cut into a rough half inch dice
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 small onion cut into a fine dice
Juice from 1 lime
Grated zest of the same lime
Small splash of rice vinegar

1/2 cup coconut milk
1 TBS chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Ceviche isn't actually raw, not like sashimi; however it is "cooked" through a chemical process not by heat. With that in mind I tossed the first 7 ingredients together and put them into the refrigerator for about an hour then added the coconut milk. I put it back into the fridge until I was ready (a couple hours later). I wanted to make sure that the fish had some time in the acid to cook.

I see a lot of warnings whenever I read ceviche recipes "Never store more than 6 hours," "there are risks associated with eating raw and undercooked meat," "your children will instantly die if they even look at this food!" and the like; relax a little and try it you'll probably be fine. I like to soak mine for at least half an hour (longer if I cut the fish kind of thick) and I think it is best to serve it the day it is made. I will admit that I have had day old ceviche I didn't die from it, but the longer it soaks the more the fish "cooks." After an hour or so it tastes cool, bright and refreshing the next morning the fish takes on the texture of yesterday's gum soaked in lemon juice. Just my observation.

Ok, my mind is wandering a bit, when it is time to serve lay it on a bed of fresh arugula garnish with the cilantro and a little lemon peel. Looking at my picture I should have added a little something else for color, but the flavor was great, and it does play well with the peppery flavor of the greens.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vidalia Onion Jam

It was a few weeks ago, that the kiddos and I packed up and went to one of the local farmer's markets.  I wanted to catch that and then take a look at the new Whole Foods in my neighborhood... What kind of grocery store has a full bar?  Anyway the adventure to the Farmer's market is where I am going today we were about half way there when it started to storm, the weather went from partly cloudy and pleasant to sheets of rain, thunder and lightning the whole show, but that didn't stop us.

By the time we got there the rain had let up a bit so Miss Lu, Mr.Man and I hopped out and started to poke around.  Past the mini donut tent (farmers market or neighborhood fair?) and into the heart of the market then the rain came again.  We ran into the nearest shelter where the guy selling his product  insisted that standing under his tent meant ready to purchase stuff.  I wasn't going to argue because he actually did make sense and was a lot bigger than me so by the time that the rain let up I had three small containers of Olives and my wallet was $16.00 lighter.  On to the rest of the market... the kids picked up some flowers to plant in our sad little garden and I got several items among them Vidalia onions.  I like Vidaila onions but they seem to be another vegetable with such a short season I only see them for a few days each year.  I have had a recipe in mind for quite awhile but really wanted to try it with these sweet onions.

Vidalia Onion Jam (yes really):
2 TBS Butter
3 Vidalia Onions halved and sliced thin
2 Cloves of Garlic minced
2 TBS Apricot Jam (I used Smucker's simply fruit)
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
Salt, Pepper to taste

Melt butter then saute the onions and garlic until soft (about 8-10 minutes) then add the rest of the ingredients and heat up cook for about 15 minutes more use to garnish your favorite  meat, I served it with Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin.  I have had a bit of a run with my favorite  meat so bare with me please.  The onion jam is wonderful sweet and filled with flavor and really works well with the crunchy crusted pork medallions.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Frozen Plum Souffles

I found myself running through the house shouting one of the things that seriously messes with my street cred the other day.  I was making a frozen dessert and couldn't find them anywhere the next thing that I knew I was searching the house saying to myself, "where are my souffle cups?"  Yes, I finally did it Bryan opened his wallet and pulled out the last little tatters of his "man card" and turned it in.  Anyway I was making Frozen Plum Souffles and could only find one of my 6 small souffle dishes.  It worked OK, I did have the one and made the rest of the souffles in my custard cups which was fine for us and still had the one for pictures.  

The procedure was really pretty easy the ingredients:

2 1/4 cup chopped plums (about 6 of them)
3/4 cup sugar

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup corn syrup
3 TBS unsalted butter
2 bulbs cardamom seeds ground (I used a mortar and pestle)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Souffles wrap a strip of foil around the souffle cup(s) to form collars so you can overfill them by about 1/2 an inch.  Combine chopped plums and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heat mixture until it is bright red and reduced by half (takes about 10 minutes) then put mixture into a food processor and chop until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Mix egg yolks, corn syrup, butter, ground cardamom, and another 1/4 cup sugar in a metal bowl then set on a pan of boiling water to heat.  Whisk constantly while heating to 170 degrees (about 10 minutes) once it reaches temp remove from heat and whisk until cool and thickened took about 10 minutes after I pulled off the heat.

Put heavy cream, 1/4 cup of sugar and vanilla into a dish and beat until you get stiff peaks.  Once that is all set fold in the egg mixture then the bright red plum mixture.  Spoon into your collared souffle dishes (or custard cups if you can't find any of them) and freeze this took about 4 hours to set, but could be made several days ahead.

While those are in the freezer make your plum sauce:

1 1/4 cup chopped plums
2 TBS Sugar
3 TBS Triple Sec
2 bulbs of cardamom ground

Heat all ingredients together in a small sauce pan until bright red and reduced by about 1/3 then put into the chopper and blend until smooth, refrigerate until cold.

When it is time to serve pull the foil collars off add a little sauce to the top garnish with plum slices.  There you go, this turned out really well slightly tart and completely refreshing.  The whipped cream keeps it soft enough to enjoy with a spoon.  The cardamom adds a nice floral quality to the sauce that really rounds the dessert out well.

Now, I know the question you are all asking "where are all of Bryan's souffle cups?" I looked around for a bit after I got these into the freezer and Well...
Dresser Drawer

Box of Cars

Dad isn't innocent either... on top of the printer
 What the hell is in this one?  I found it on the counter 
16 inches from where I was making the souffles 
(didn't see this one until the next day)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mahi-mahi with Avocado Melon Relish

Between parades, fire works and recovery from the now famed surgery I had a chance to cook out for the holiday.  The menu for me was Jerk Seasoned Mahi-mahi with an Avocado Melon Relish cooked on the grill of course (Kris chose beef tenderloin with a light spice rub).  I didn't have any Jerk seasoning so I made some, I had all the ingredients in the cupboard, and found this on I think:

2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Mix it all together, liberally coat mahi-mahi fillets and set aside for about half an hour at room temperature to temper.  While that is resting put together the salsa.

The Salsa has:
1 avocado diced
1 slice of watermelon (3/4 cup diced)
1 mango diced
1 small yellow onion diced
juice from 2 limes
grated peel from 1 lime
salt, pepper and chipotle chili powder to taste (really just a sprinkle of each)

The Salsa was a perfect addition to the Jerk Mahi fillets the bright and colorful pop of flavor and color in the salsa had just the right amount of cool acidity to work with the spicy fish.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm Back

Ok a bit of an unscheduled break there, sorry loyal readers I was incapacitated for a while.  It all started on Wednesday morning after I had called into work sick (I never take time off sick) Kris asked me how I felt.  My answer was, "Let's add sharp shooting pains in my side to the list of symptoms."  Yes folks it was appendicitis and since I don't do things half way it had already burst so I was really out of it for a while.  After five days in the hospital and several more at home I am feeling, not well, but better and bored to death.  

So what is a bored foodie to do while off work for another several days?  Well bake... for two reasons 1. baking yeast bread is something that I am able to do, you know mix stuff together, let it sit for an hour press it down let it sit for an hour, works well for me this week.  2. Baking bread has always been relaxing for me kind of like yoga only I don't wake up sore the next day.

My first baking venture was actually something that I started almost a month ago Sourdough,  from a starter.  I won't go into the rules of making a starter, I did find a website that was very simple and helpful.  The author makes a comment along the line of "does this all sound brain-dead simple, that's because it is people who thought the earth was flat did this for a thousand years."  

I found it to be as easy as he said, the morning that I made my first loaf of sourdough I put all of my starter (growing since June 5th) into a glass bowl covered it and let it sit on the counter for about 5 hours until it was all foamy and started to smell like old beer.  I know it sounds like a great way to start food but work with me here once that was all ready I made the bread dough:

2 Cups of sponge (fancy-pants word for proofed starter)
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cup wheat flour
2 TBS belted butter
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

Mixed those ingredients together and put them into a clean glass bowl for about 3 more hours until it proofed after it had about doubled in size I kneaded that down, formed it into a ball and put it on a baking pan to rise again for about 3 more hours.  Altogether is was a bit of a commitment I am happy that I did my first one on a day that I was home alone.
After this rise I put it into a cold oven then turned it on to 350 for about 45 minutes, until it made a hollow sound when I knocked on the crust.  Over all this was a good experiment the bread was good, next time I think I will trust my instincts and add a little more flour to stiffen it up.  The bread is light but like sourdough has a nice weight to it.  I am happy with this one


here it is with a little olive tapenade ready for lunch