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encouraging the impractical and impossible

valentine’s day dinner

hoping to do something a bit different… i decided to make a pleasant elegant meal for valentines day — that we might eat in the dining room, instead of the couch!

after a bit of thinking about what might brighten an otherwise dreary february — i settled on duck breast with candied orange peels and a roasted mushroom risotto (and a de(re?)constructed caesar salad on the side…).

this is a pretty simple meal… with a few simple underlying techniques.
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2008.02.15 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

italian wedding soup — NOT.

well… after attending a wedding this weekend, and coming to work only to find that the soup.of.the.day was ‘italian wedding soup’.. i need to rant.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP!!!!!

here’s the deal:
once upon a time, a longlonglongtime ago, in a land ohsofaraway, the people had leftover cured meats in the winter and the only thing growing outside was dark green, leafy plants. the meat was too tough and the greens too bitter. in a fit of inspiration, both were soaked in boiling water — adding whatever else was lying around — and, velò, a perfect marriage (or, maritata). there’s also probably a little play on words from the italian word for soup, minestra — i’ll let you figure it out.

since this was italy… once in the states, the name was bastardized into ‘italian wedding soup’. duh.

no italian weddings at all. but, great soup!!
read on:
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2007.09.24 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

if we took out the bones, it wouldn’t be crunchy …

one of my alltime favorite topics around penn state is whether or not we should be eating horses. its a shocker for all of our equine.minor students, but also a bridge to talking about other ideas. certainly, when i was in france — horse meat was not so strange; but, then again snacking on man’s best friend leads to cogent and necessary discussions about the ethics of eating meat.

enter the plight of the bluefin tuna; and the ever-so-burdensome effort to replace it with, gasp, yellowfin tuna.

Ready for Life Without Bluefin Tuna? – The Lede – Breaking News – New York Times Blog

Martin Fackler of The New York Times reported that the Japanese are using more yellowfin, are beginning to try the previously unspeakable avocado roll from the United States, and most notoriously, are tasting “sushi” made with smoked deer and raw horse. That last one may sound like a scary, even gross, proposition. But David Pasternack, a chef who serves plenty of raw fish at Esca in New York, said it’s nothing like what you’re picturing. “The horse in Japan is raised Kobe-style,” he told Serious Eats. “It’s incredibly delicious, sweet and tender.”

who knew horses would be in such demand?!
me? i’ll stick with the smoked duck.

[crossposted at Poultry Management]

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2007.09.19 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

BBQ season: chicken

a recent post in lifehacker about ‘barbeque sauce‘ reminded me that i hadn’t posted by ‘white’ or oil&vinegar bbq sauce.  it also reminded me that most people don’t acknowledge the difference between grilling and bbq.  for grilling (sometimes called “smoke roasting”… the temperature of the coals (or gas grill!) is usually between 350-500F for burgers, steaks and chops.  larger cuts of meat, bone-in poultry and sausages usually range between 240-350F.  true bbq-ing occurs between 160-240F.

smoking (either hot [90-160F] or cold [60-90F]…  is a horse of a different color … i’ll try to get some smoking recipes up in the fall)

this oil&vinegar bbq sauce is meant for chicken (usually done in a charcoal pit — see the picture) and is only slightly modified from my days as a grad student (assigned to help bbq chicken at the Virginia State Fair back in 1978).

VA chicken bbq sauce

  • 1 gallon (yes, a gallon!) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 gallon (yes, again.. ) vegetable oil
  • 4 oz poultry seasoning (use the good stuff — with lots of sage)
  • 2 oz salt
  • 2 oz black pepper (more will make the chicken spicier)
  • 2 oz garlic powder
  • 1 oz crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 oz oregano

mix in a bucket;  apply liberally after the chicken begins to brown (preferably using a toilet brush — there is considerable debate surrounding the issue of this item).  i find that this recipe works well on a gas grill if you cut the vegetable oil back to 1/3 gallon — which avoids a lot of flareups).
notably, towards the end of the cooking process, usually during the last 2-3 turns of the chicken — add a small bottle of texas pete (or your favorite hot sauce) to the bucket.  it adds a nice flavor; but, be warned, if you add it too early in the cooking process; the hot sauce will burn off — leaving a bitter aftertaste… ).

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2007.08.18 Posted by | what's for dinner? | | Leave a comment

return of the blowfish

yesterday, we had a very pleasant surprise!! a neighbor pulled up a crab trap filled with blowfish.

IMG_0441.JPG

as a kid, a local fisherman — Mr. Grey, taught us how to clean the blowfish (and also tried to get us to make blowfish-head soup). needless to say, we used to catch them all the time — but, over the last 10 years, rarely, if ever.

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2007.06.08 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

BBQ season: red

i suppose it’s officially barbeque (barbecue?) season!! which always leads to the never-ending controversies of “what kind of bbq sauce is best?”!!

red or white, is the usual question — though i completely disregard the entire ‘mustard’ issue… i will NOT use mustard in my bbq. if you like it .. check out south.carolina!

naturally, i have my own opinion in this matter…. we’ll start with the best of the reds …

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2007.06.04 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

shrimp and mango salad

Recently, ‘A’ found a recipe in Gourmet Magazine for shrimp and mango salad with glass noodles.  It’s listed as serving 4 and a 20 minute prep time.  Honestly, this was enough for the two of us (with 2 shrimp and a few noodles left over).

my modifications included;

  • the use of fresh cilantro instead of basil,
  • we had 1/2 a cucumber in the crisper… so i peeled, cored and sliced the cuke into linquini-like slices
    (ok… i admit to having a MingTsai Ceramic Knife….)
  • i also added a tsp of crushed red pepper (no fresh jalapeno’s from the garden in april in central.PA),
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced (with the same knife!)
  • 1 tbsp. minced red onion (left over from the other night… )
  • salt, white pepper
  • oh yeah…. use about 1 tsp toasted sesame oil… or, if you’re like me; liberally sprinkle the following hot red oil!!!

Red Hot Oil

  • 1 cup peanut or canola oil (your choice)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

heat the oil til just smoking (about 375F) and remove from heat.  Add all peppers.  the longer you leave the peppers in the oil (i usually go overnight), the hotter the oil gets.  strain the oil through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. pour into a ‘shaker’ bottle (i use old worcestershire sauce bottles… cleaned, of course) — then add the sesame oil.

as an aside, i usually don’t throw out the toasted crushed red peppers. i put them in a separate container and cover with extra virgin olive oil (not the super-premium… but, the regular stuff).  this can then be used to top your spaghetti.  [at least until the fresh hot peppers come into season!!]

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2007.04.23 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

world’s best appetizer

ok, it’s getting late on a friday — and a boy’s mind turns to food and beverages. this is the BEST snack and goes particularly well with your favorite adult beverage… it’s called “Tarongia” (in italian). essentially a giant deep fried pizza crust topped with good stuff. as with all things eaten on weekend; it has zero calories.
here’s our version.

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2007.03.23 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

2007.02.25 Sunday

Sunday’s are pasta day around our house; but, sometimes you just don’t feel like making a HUGE pot of gravy (or, is it, sauce?). No time? No motivation?
Here’s my 20 minute solution. Angel hair pasta with Shrimp.

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2007.02.27 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment

2007.02.20

if you like to eat, and are not watching “the minimalist” (by Mark Bittman) on the NYTimes website, you are missing a good time!

a recent video on mackerel, prompted this meal:

start your rice!  for this dinner (for 2), i used 1 1/4 cup water (plus a splash of canola oil, pinch of salt, 2 dashes white pepper) and 2/3 cup of basmati rice.

while that’s simmering; put enough olive oil (yes, use extra virgin… ) to cover the bottom of a 12in skillet, and thinly slice 3-4 cloves of garlic and your best tolerable amount of crushed red pepper (i use lots…).  set the pan aside.

place in another pan (i used a 10″ nonstick saute pan);

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine (bittman used sake… i didn’t have any!)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 8-10 paper thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 4 sliced garlic cloves (though you could just crush them)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • ‘some’ freshly ground black pepper (ok… we like it hot!)

here comes the fun part:

heat the 12″ pan with the sliced garlic and olive oil, til the garlic begins to brown (pay attention: don’t burn it… if you do, just start over!).  as soon as it is a loverlytoastybrown, add in one bunch of trimmed, washed (but not drained) broccoli de rabe. the excess water will stop the garlic from burning, and you can begin to turn and saute the broccoli de rabe. after the leaves and small stalks begin to wilt, add about 1/4 cup H2O or chicken stock.  cover and steam til the larger stalks are as tender as you like (my dad likes it gray and mushy;  we prefer it green and crisp/tender!).

now… bring the other pan to a simmer and add your favorite white fish (we had two lovely catfish fillets (only $4.99/lb).  simmer til just done (about 8-10 minutes).

the 2nd best part is to assemble your plates.  a scoop of rice, a pile of broccoli.de.rabe, and a fillet on top. spoon a bit of the simmering liquid on top then garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and green onions (if you like them).

the 1st best part is to eat. : )
(i suppose i should include some pictures in subsequent recipes… it was really a lovely plate!)

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2007.02.21 Posted by | what's for dinner? | Leave a comment