Friday, September 28, 2012

Shakin' It Up To Stop Lung Cancer - Recap & Recipe

There are some things in life that are worth every single moment and every bit of energy you put into them.   Kids are first to mind, of course, but I’m talking beyond the realm of family.  I’m looking outside to causes that make a positive impact in people's lives.  LUNGevity IS that worthwhile cause.  

Let me tell you just a little bit about this organization.  LUNGevity is the largest private funder of lung cancer research and offers the largest online support network for lung cancer patients.  It is dedicated to ending lung cancer NOW.  Because 1 in 14 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer, each one of us knows or has known someone who has somehow been affected.  Lung cancer kills more Americans than breast, colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancer combined.  LUNGevity works diligently across the country to put an end to this insidious disease.
What does this have to do with today's Dinner Plan-it post? Somehow I was fortunate enough to be connected with this organization to help kick off the very first LUNGevity mixology fundraiser here in Pittsburgh.  Along with Michael Green, respected Wine and Spirits consultant to Gourmet Magazine for 19 years, and Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter for spirits, liquor, cocktails and bars, I was the remaining third of the trio of judges at a night of cocktail magic.  What an experience!  What a dynamic group of moving and shaking (no pun intended) people!  What a night of Shakin' It Up To STOP Lung Cancer!
In the kitchen and getting ready!

Groundwork had been laid long before I ever was pulled into the fold, but we built upon that framework and gathered some of the BEST mixologists in Pittsburgh to dazzle the lucky people who would eventually attend the event.  Shakin’ It Up To Stop Lung Cancer pitted mixologists in a head-to-head competition that incorporated Penn 1681 Vodka and healthy ingredients in a cocktail.  What a creative group of bartenders we have here in Pittsburgh!

Ingredients such as freshly crushed red grapes, fresh pumpkin, pineapple and apples, whole blueberries and blackberries and even ancho chiles were all in abundance.  Fresh herbs and spices, too, pumped up the cocktails…mint, sage, thyme, clove, cinnamon, basil...a virtual garden!  A rainbow of colors and flavors!

Kevin and Tara showing off Penn 1681 Vodka!

Each one of the bar chefs could describe to you just what the benefit of their healthy ingredients provided.  Kevin Saftner from James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy created a cocktail using freshly crushed red grapes and called it a Grape Sparkler.  Kevin explained that red grapes contain a substance called reversatrol that inhibits wrinkles and is beneficial to your heart!  Who knew?! 


Stevie P with a little cocktail magic!

Stevie P, from Liquid Flair Entertainment, used a juice extractor on fresh pumpkins to create from-scratch pumpkin syrup for his Bobbing for Pumpkins won the People's Choice Award! A cocktail with carotenoids that help neutralize free radicals in your body?  A cocktail with antioxidants that help prevent cataracts? One that has zinc and iron and fiber, too?  Thank you Stevie P!

Marie of Stir Society and Mike of Meat & Potatoes
Mike Mills, yes, THE Mike Mills from Meat & Potatoes(!), used acai, agave, damson plum liqueur and a special mixture of bitters in creating the Judges' Choice Award winning cocktail. Garnished with a single rose petal, I can attest it was as beautiful as it was intoxicatingly delicious!  
Judges Award: Never Been Kissed by Mike Mills, left   People's Choice Award: Bobbing For Pumpkins by Stevie P, center

Tara Shinn of Cioppino in the Strip District used fresh blueberries and thyme to create her delightful Blueberry Thyme; Marie Perriello, of The Stir Society, incorporated apples, cloves and citrus in her Manhattan Mule; Allie Contreras of Root 174 used apples, apple cider, freshly made sage syrup and citrus to come up with her Fall Slumber - there was even a bit of bacon bitters...mmmm; Glasgow in the Summer Time was Colin Anderson's (Bar Marco) contribution featuring fresh pineapple juice, blackberries and mint; and Dish Osteria's RaeLynn Harshman created her refreshing Turchino with a homemade fresh blueberry shrub garnished with a basil leaf.  
All 9 contenders

Allie Contreras pouring an Autumn Slumber

 For those not wanting to indulge, mocktail versions of the above cocktails were available as well as soft drinks.  A very special selection of craft beers and ales and wines were flowing, too.  And no evening of cocktails - healthy or not - should be undertaken without a sumptuous spread of appetizers.  Crabcakes, a wealth of sushi, tender meatballs, cheeses, meats, fresh fruits, Caprese salad, shrimp...I could go on and on just like the beautifully decorated tables that seemed to stretch forever.  
Just a peek of the appetizer selections.

Believe it or not, plans are already underway for next year's bigger and even better event that will coincide with Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  Mark your calendars NOW for Thursday, November 7th, 2013 at J Verno Studios on Jane Street in the Southside.  BE THERE!  I will!

Oh, wait!  You didn't think I'd leave you without a cocktail recipe, did you?  Of course I wouldn't!  Here is THE recipe from Colin Anderson of Bar Marco in the Strip District:

Glasgow in the Summer Time


Pineapple juice, blackberry shrub (Whole Foods in East Liberty carries shrubs in the beverage section), mint, Angostura bitters, seltzer (Colin used Pittsburgh Seltzer in those gorgeous bottles), Penn 1681 Vodka


Lightly muddle 6 mint leaves in 1/4 oz. of rich demerara syrup (or simple syrup).  Add 2 parts pineapple juice (1-1/2 oz), 2 parts vodka (or water or a mocktail), 1 part blackberry shrub (3/4 oz.) and 5 dashes of Angostura bitters.  

Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.  Strain, add ice, top with seltzer and garnish with a healthy mint stalk.    

Don't wait until next year to support the work of the LUNGevity Foundation.  Please donate today.  Here's the link...and thank you!

Stevie P looks on as Mike Mills gets a congratulatory hug from Beth Westbrook Starnes - the driving force behind Shakin' It Up To Stop Lung Cancer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where There's Smoke There's....Smoky, Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

It's Sunday. The game is coming up in just an hour. Question: What am I making after one busy (but FUN!) weekend with not much time to make something snack-ish?  Answer: Smoky, Spicy Pumpkin Hummus!  

Pumpkin hummus is football snacktime magic.  Rich and satisfying, yet relatively low in calories, high in Vitamin A, folic acid, protein, potassium, and's practically a wonder food!  

If you promise not to tell, I'll share a little secret...feel free to use the same technique if you need to.  My hubby doesn't react well to the word "hummus."  To his ears, hummus means healthy and boring and it must not taste good.  So I went back to basics called it bean dip.  

Hey! I didn't lie!  Garbanzo beans ARE beans and you DIP things into the hummus, therefore it IS bean dip. He's always loved bean dip...and now he loves pumpkin hummus, too.  We all know it's all in how you market things.

Here's the have just enough time to make it before the game!

Smoky, Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

  • 14 ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz. can of pumpkin, NOT pie filling - just canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper, dried powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt, non-fat Fage Greek yogurt

Process garbanzo beans in food processor until VERYfinely chopped.  

With motor running, add garlic and remaining ingredients and process until smooth.  Taste for seasoning adding additional salt and pepper if needed or more lemon juice.

Serve with corn chips to make it more dip-ish and less hummus-y than pita bread makes it seem. (Is that sneaky?)

NOTE:  If you like less spicy things, start with half the cayenne and half the chipotle...add a little at a time until it's just how you like it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crispy, Crunchy & Spicy Gluten-Free Fried Chicken

As Americans, crispy, crunchy, golden fried chicken is our God-given right!  Right? Isn't it in the Constitution somewhere?  This staple of the picnic table is one that everyone needs to indulge in when the mood strikes...Southern Fried Chicken, Maryland Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken (ehh...maybe not that one).  

Lucky we are to indulge at will...unless you have a gluten issue.  Then you can only stare wistfully at the platter, breathing in the siren aroma and pining for that old favorite once again.  It smells so good!  Why, oh why, isn't there damned good fried chicken that's gluten-free, too?  Look no further, HERE IT IS!

Crispy, crunchy, tender and juicy, spicy as you like and everything you remember from the best fried chicken back in the good old days.  I've been working on this one for the last 8 years - tweaking, adjusting, improving - and here it is. Soaked in buttermilk, hot pepper, hot sauce and chopped jalapenos, dredged in corn and rice flours spiked with more hot pepper and seasonings then fried until golden and crispy...heaven.   

Don't go thinking rice flour is just for gluten-free cooking!  Bobby Flay uses rice flour to get lots of crunch on his Fish & Chips and Onion Rings.  We all know Bobby knows the best way to "crunch-ify" everything!  

 Crispy, Crunchy & Spicy Gluten-Free Fried Chicken

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, stem removed, chopped - leave in seeds and ribs
  • 1/2 cup Tabasco sauce, the Buffalo hot sauce, if you can't find it, use Frank's
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper, Hot Shot (McCormick makes this...if you can't find it, use a mix of 3/4 freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 cayenne pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt, Jane's Crazy Salt (or other seasoned salt...but do yourself a favor and get Jane's!  Even Paula Deen used to use it before she created her knockoff version under her own, more expensive, brand.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt, Jane's again
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper, Hot Shot again
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 3 chicken breast halves, with skin, bone in - cut in half
  • 3 chicken thighs, with skin, bone in

Combine all marinade ingredients and marinate chicken overnight or at least several hours.

Mix dry ingredients.  When chicken has marinated, place dry ingredients in bag, then add chicken a few pieces at a time and shake well to coat, covering completely.  Remove pieces from bag and place on rack for at least 20 minutes to set coating. 

In the meantime, put canola oil in an electric skillet about an inch up the side.  Set control to 375 degrees and bring oil to temperature.  Or use your cast iron skillet - perfect.

Carefully place each piece of chicken in skillet skin side down.  Fry on each side until golden brown.  Don't hurry it.  Fry in batches - don't crowd.  Make sure each piece has no pink next to the bone...especially with thighs. When done and cooked through, remove to paper towels and keep warm in a 250 degree oven. When all batches are done, serve!

NOTE:  If you don't like your fried chicken as spicy as this sounds, cut back on the heat by leaving out the jalapeno or cutting back on the hot sauce.  No problem.  

One more thing.  As much as I love this stuff, the waistline only allows me to make it (and eat it) once a year.  Sadly, only once a year.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spicy & Crispy Balsamic, Maple & Stoneground Mustard Wings

Game day!  And yes, that's exactly what's going on the coffee table in front of the TV in just a few minutes...just as soon as I get this posted for you.  

The wings are baked in the oven to eliminate all that extra fat from frying....baking makes them healthy, yes?  And maple is natural, so that must be good for you, too.  Mustard has almost no calories...same for balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper.  

That means....WINGS ARE HEALTH FOOD!  If only in my demented, delusional little mind. Okay, even if they aren't actually healthy, they are JUST the thing for game day.  Enjoy.  (Responsibly.)

    Spicy & Crispy 
Balsamic, Maple & Stoneground Mustard Wings

  • 12 chicken wings, that's 6 drummies and 6 flats

  • 1/4 cup stoneground mustard
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, the REAL stuff!  Grade B - has deeper, richer flavor
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a preheated 450 degree oven, bake wings on a large rimmed cookie sheet - about 20-25 minutes.  Turn over & bake another 20 minutes or so until the wings are browned and crispy, but not dried out.  Remove.

While the wings are baking, mix all the sauce ingredients well in a large heat-proof bowl.  Set aside.

When the wings are done, stir the sauce again and put the wings into the bowl.  Stir well until the wings are coated completely.  Move the wings to a serving plate and pour the sauce left in the bowl over top.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fresh Tomato Basil Summer Sauce

It's summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime...summerti-i-i-i-ime!  But not for long.  "Make sauce while the sun shines and the tomatoes are plentiful" is my September motto.  Each fall I capture the warmth of the sun and the scent of bright green basil wafting from the bright green patch next to the pond right in this barely cooked, garden-fresh and summery tomato sauce.  

We all enjoy the chunky sauce over a good pasta (gluten-free in my case) straight from the stove on the same day I first make it - it smells SO good. It's even better when I pull it from the freezer in the middle of winter.  It brings summer rushing right back with the very first bite.  Summer memories bring big smiles when there's snow blowing outside the windows!

Fresh Tomato Basil Summer Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 onions, chopped fine in the food processor
  • 4 cloves garlic, large, minced
  • 6 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped fine in the food processor
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
Heat oil in a large saute pan (I like to use my large electric skillet - BIG to hold lots of sauce and a large surface to evaporate liquid quickly). Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add tomatoes and rest of ingredients.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has evaporated.
Ladle over pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan.
I make the sauce in a large quantity - sometimes several batches - and freeze it for the winter.  Quart bags that have a white area on the front to write what's inside and the date are just the thing to freeze the sauce in.  
NOTE:  If you haven't heard (read) me say this before, imported Italian BiAglut is by far the best gluten-free pasta on the market.  More expensive than most, but WORTH IT! I get it locally at Soergel's in Wexford, PA. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life as a Culinary Judge - One Pretty Sweet (or Savory) Gig

Head-spinning!  That's how I'd describe two days under the fancy, big, white tents at Savor Pittsburgh and my very first experience as a culinary judge. Belly-busting might be an appropriate description, too.  

When it came to belly-busting, Thursday night was the most intense of all.  Thirty - count 'em, THIRTY - dishes were beautifully, almost ceremoniously presented to two long tables of judges.  Appetizers, entrees and desserts streamed to our tables in a parade of tantalizing aromas, titillating flavors and tempting presentations.  

We judges were chosen from a wide array of food-related areas...respected chefs, magazine editors and writers, food bloggers (me!), distinguished WQED television personalities (Chris Fennimore AND Rick Seback!) and esteemed food writers for BOTH Pittsburgh newspapers...15+ of some of the most interesting food experts I've ever had the good fortune to rub elbows with...literally with the people on either side!  

Chris Fennimore, Me, Rick Sebak

The evening began with what else but appetizers...where else would you start in the natural progression of things?  There were winners and losers evident from the get-go in both taste and presentation. Some of the prettiest didn't deliver on taste, some of the most delicious were lacking in style and panache and just a few were underwhelming in creativity.  It was the best of the  best that scored in all three categories...those would be the winners.
My picks in the most of the categories ended up taking home honors.  Meat & Potatoes' creation of the Pig Wing proved that pigs do fly...straight to the top of the heap for Best Dish of the Year.  By the way, this win makes two years in a row that Meat & Potatoes has won Best Dish of the Year.  Impressive. 

I wonder if the accompanying Pig Slap Pale Ale influenced us at all?! 

Best Dish of the Year - Pig Wing from Meat & Potatoes

Speaking of influencing judges, check out the original presentation of the Duck Confit Tarts! takes more than a buck to influence THIS judge.  By the way, no money was accepted...I saw all the cash go back with the plates.  At least all those I noticed! 

Some bribe!  LOL

The winning appetizer?  That would be the totally decadent Chocolate Ravioli from Savoy in the Strip District.  Nope, it wasn't a dessert. It was a savory chocolate raviolo filled with a delicately seasoned and silky butternut squash puree, a sweet medallion of butter-poached lobster angled jauntily on the side and drizzled with a fresh peach-infused cream sauce.  Total heaven!

Chocolate Ravioli from Savoy in the Strip District

On to the main dishes...there were several here that stood out including two sous vide dishes.  Now being a Food Network fan, the technique is one I've heard and observed from afar for a few years but have never had the opportunity to try.  Until Thursday.  Now I know why the Iron Chefs and challengers incorporate it into their preparations...the results are astoundingly tender and flavorful.  

How do they do it?  I hear it involves vacuum sealing and water and all, but I think it's just magic.  The meat comes out tender and juicy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. 

One of the sous vide dishes won the entree category!  Thank you Jackson's of Moon Township!  The sous vide short ribs were served atop a hash of apples and a variety of root vegetables.  Notice the little plastic thing sticking out of the top?  That was a "syringe" filled with a "reduction" we were told to squeeze into our mouths after eating the meat.  Just like Iron Chef America!

Sous Vide Short Ribs with Roasted Apples and Root Vegetables

On to dessert!  The winner was a beautiful landscape of white chocolate capuccino cannoli served with balsamic glazed fresh strawberries from one of my favorite grand dame restaurant in Pittsburgh, The Grand Concourse.  The shells were light, airy and crisp, the filling smooth and silky and the strawberries made such a tart was a perfect way to end a meal.

Wish the pic was may have been my eyes watering right along with my very grateful mouth.

That was it for the food on Thursday night...all that was left was an evening of strolling through the tents, sampling cocktails, talking with chefs and guests, enjoying the music and the beautiful breezes off the Mon.  What a beautiful way to spend an early September evening in Pittsburgh. What an incredible experience! 


(That was Thursday night...Friday night was round two and THE Great Happy Hour Competition.  Tell you all about THAT in the next post. Yes, I got to judge BOTH nights!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chili Dusted Duck Fat Sweet Potato Chips with Avocado Scrambled Eggs

After the craziness of two big nights under the fancy white tents at Savor Pittsburgh and judging all those fantastic dishes, our Sunday morning was a lazy one.  Whew!  What a non-stop few days!  Come this morning, Mark and I need a break - if only for a few quiet hours.

I'd like to say we just kind of lounged around and relaxed, sipped Bloody Marys and noshed on this beautiful brunch dish, but the relaxing occurred AFTER the cooking...then it was really well-deserved!  Had we thought ahead, the crema and chili salt could have been done the night before and would have made this morning's prep much easier.  

Still, it was worth it! Duck fat sweet potato chips dusted with chili salt, crowned with avocado cubes cuddled oh so tenderly into softly scrambled eggs (with a little jalapeno kick!) and drizzled with cilantro lime crema were just the way to chill.  

Sounds strictly like a brunch dish? Ha!  It will make killer leftovers for breakfast tomorrow!  

Chili Dusted Duck Fat Sweet Potato Chips 
with Avocado Scrambled Eggs

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

  • 4 ounces sour cream, or use Fage Greek yogurt - 0% fat is what I used
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce, the GREEN kind!
  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • duck fat
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 medium jalapeno, cut into 1/2" strips and then across into slivers
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Chili Salt:  Combine and set aside.

Crema: Combine and set aside.

Chips:  In a medium pot, heat 3" worth of duck fat to 375 degrees.  While the fat is heating (watch carefully!), using a vegetable peeler (I like my nice swivel blade one that's about 3-4" wide), cut thin sliced of the peeled sweet potato and let them sit until the fat is hot enough.  When the fat is at temp, fry the sliced potatoes several at a time - maybe 12 or so - until they nearly stop bubbling.  Remove with a spider or slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  They won't seem crisp, but will crisp up in seconds once they're out of the oil. Don't let them brown or they will be overdone.  When they're all done, keep them warm in the oven.

Eggs:  Melt the butter in a skillet.  In a bowl, scramble the eggs, water, jalapeno and salt with a whisk.  Pour the eggs into the skillet and gently move them with a spoon until they start to set a little.  At that point, add the avocado cubes and continue until the eggs are just how you like them.  I like mine slightly wet and not overcooked.

Assembly:  Mound the chips on a serving plate, sprinkle with the chile salt, mound the eggs in the center and drizzle with the crema.  Garnish if you wish.

NOTE TO SELF:  Make the chile salt and the crema the night before to make Sunday morning just a little more relaxing.  

By the report on BOTH nights of Savor Pittsburgh is coming up in a day or two.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bavarian Sauerkraut Salad to Welcome Fall

Early this morning, before dawn even, thunder rumbled in the distance, breezes gently stirred the windchimes into a soft melody... no rain was yet falling, but you could sense it in the ripe and ready atmosphere.  Hot, humid air was being bullied out of the way by a much welcome and anticipated cold front.  Hurry up!  Get here!  Get rid of this sticky stuff...I'm ready for you Fall!

So I happily stayed awake enjoying the stealth of the weather creeping closer.  The wind picked up, the music of the chimes became up-tempo jazz, thunder was joined by lightning to put on quite the show while raindrops beat a soft sizzle counter-rhythm.  Not for long though, as a BOOM of thunder ignited an explosion of lightning. Wind roared and whistled outside the window and drumming rain drowned out all else.  

Well done, Fall.  You know how to make an entrance!

Here is an appropriate Fall-ish dish.

 Bavarian Sauerkraut Salad or Relish

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 16 ounce can sauerkraut, Bavarian style (has caraway seeds)
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped fine
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup pimiento, chopped fine

In a small pot, stir together sugar and vinegar.  Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  (Watch this carefully, it doesn't take long.  You don't want smoking, black sugar and vinegar caramel.  Don't ask how I know that.) Remove from heat.  Cool.

Mix the sugar/vinegar syrup into the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate overnight or just for an hour if that's all you have.  Good as salad or as relish for German sausages.  Double the recipe if you're going to serve it as a salad.

NOTE:  I originally enjoyed this sweet & sour treat in the late 80's at a covered dish dinner.  A neighbor brought it, everyone loved it!  She said it was a "secret" recipe and no, she wouldn't divulge the secret.  Her wonderful daughter, Merry, shared it with every one of us the next day.  Turns out, it wasn't so secret after all.  It's the same recipe that apparently everyone's all over the place.  So I'm sharing this not-so-secret secret recipe with all of YOU. 

(I did change it up a little, though.  The original recipe just added the sugar and vinegar to the rest of the ingredients without cooking - I like to be sure the sugar dissolves before adding to the veggies.  You can do it either way you like!  

One more thing...I thought I had a green pepper.  I didn't.  I DID have a poblano pepper...hey, it was green!  I liked it even better!  The mild heat of a poblano was just right - I think a jalapeno would be too much.)


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bacon Roasted Jalapeno Garlic & Lime Turkey Breast

We'd had all the best intentions in the world of celebrating Labor Day by relaxing on the back deck, chatting with neighbors, tending the turkey as it roasted away on the grill for a few hours.  The weather guy, however, said that wasn't such a good was going to RAIN!  And it was going to rain buckets...beware you unwary, foolish people who plan an outdoor celebration, the remnants of Isaac are headed this way!  We were just POSITIVE he was right....once in a while, he HAS to be right, right?

Wrong.  Cautiously, we chickened out of the al fresco idea...tucked tail and roasted the turkey indoors.  But you know what?  Damn it was good just done in the oven indoors...the bacon wrap gave moistness and great OUTSIDE smokey flavor to our INSIDE bird!  When we thought about it afterwards, we could never have roasted the turkey on the grill with all that bacon anyway - it may have burned up from bacon grease flare ups before it ever roasted properly...even over an indirect heat.  Maybe the indoor prep was meant to be after all. 

The jalapeno, garlic and lime butter?  It infused the turkey breast with deep heat and garlicky goodness through and through.  We still had the outdoor BBQ grill flavor!  Good to know for cool and rainy or cold and snowy days to come, yes?  Yes!  

And that weather guy?  He's predicting rain for the next 4 days....yeah, right.

Bacon Roasted Jalapeno Garlic & Lime Turkey Breast

  • 2 jalapenos, stem end removed, leave in seeds & ribs for more heat, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 small onion, chunked
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and stem end cut off
  • 2 limes, zest only (save the juice for cocktails!)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • fresh ground black pepper, lots!

  • 1 turkey breast, with ribs and skin
  • 1/2 pound bacon

Prepare jalapeno butter:  In a food processor, whirl onion & jalapeno.  While the processor is running, drop the garlic cloves down the chute & continue processing until everything is minced.  Transfer to a small bowl & add the salt, pepper, zest & butter.  Work the butter into the rest until everything is incorporated into an even mixture.
Run your hand gently between the flesh and the skin of the turkey breast, creating a nice pocket on each side, but don't break the connective tissue that runs down the center from neck to butt end - leaving that in place helps keep the butter in place.  

Put half the butter mixture into each side.  From the OUTSIDE, using your hands, rub and distribute the butter mixture all over the turkey breast on both sides.  (It's easier to do this from the outside!)  Do this the morning you're going to roast the turkey breast or even the night before!  Refrigerate.
Put a roast rack (I like the V-shape type) into a roasting pan, settle the turkey breast into the rack skin side up.  Pepper the outside of the turkey breast well and cover the skin with bacon slices.
Overlap bacon slices across the outside and secure with a couple of toothpicks, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 400 and roast until the turkey skin is browned and golden under the bacon and the turkey registers 165 degrees.  Remove from the oven & let rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Golden and delicious turkey INDOORS!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eggs & Garlic Spinach in Portobellos with Harissa Cream

A vegetarian brunch dish?  From me?  Quelle surprise!  Yeah, I know...there's that pile of bacon nestled alongside...focus only on the meat-free portobello in front of it.  You didn't expect me to go cold turkey, did you?!

Why use a ramekin for baked eggs in spinach when Mother Nature (and the mushroom caves of Pennsylvania) have provided such an edible and delicious little casserole dish?  And it's such a pretty little container! 

The bonus is those great big mushrooms are filling, satisfying and low in calories, too.  In fact, if you wanted to use egg beaters instead of a whole egg?  Go ahead!  Enjoy an even healthier version of this dish!  Okay, there's heavy cream in the big's just there to lighten up the spice of the harissa.  If you want to use half & half to lighten that up a bit, fine by me!  You know I'm flexible!

Eggs & Garlic Spinach in Portobellos with Harissa Cream

Serves 2

  • 2 portobello mushroom, remove stem and clean out all the gills 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, just to coat the pan 
  • 3/4 bag spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, diced small
  • 1 clove garlic, minced - 2 or 3 cloves if you like your spinach good and garlicky!  (I do!)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tablespoons harissa, store bought
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Oil the bottom of a small, shallow casserole dish - just big enough to hold the mushrooms.
In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion & garlic until translucent.  Add the spinach and stir until the spinach wilts.  Season with salt & pepper, remove from heat.
Mound the spinach mixture evenly between both mushrooms.  With a spoon, press the spinach into the curve of the mushroom sides making a nest for the egg and letting it peek prettily around all the edges.  Break an egg into each of the mushrooms.
Put the filled mushrooms into the casserole dish and put about 1/2" of water into the bottom of the dish - be careful not to get any water into the mushrooms.
Bake until the eggs are set and how you like them, checking occasionally.  (The time will vary depending upon how cold the mushrooms are - cold mushrooms means a longer baking time.)
While the eggs are baking, mix the harissa & cream until nicely incorporated.
Remove mushrooms from oven and plate.  Drizzle the harissa cream over and around the eggs.  Gives a beautiful color contrast and a nice little zip!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Avocado Firebolt

Sometimes a cocktail recipe seems to roll around in the back of my mind for quite a while before it somehow emerges fully formed. That’s how it happened with this gorgeous pale green little number. 

The idea started months ago in a cocktail class when the instructor dropped the bomb that avocado can give a cocktail the same smooth, velvety mouthfeel that egg gives to a drink.  Now that sounded intriguing. And avocado sounded better than a raw egg! 

Although I was tempted to give a savory cocktail a shot (think cilantro, tomato water, bacon…hmmmm…that might be up next), I knew I wanted to go the sweet route this time.  Avocado is like the chameleon of the produce aisle - it takes on whatever flavor direction you decide to go in. 
So what liquor would I use?  My first thought was tequila – again, the first instinct was savory, but I wanted something that would allow the avocado to delicately come through.  Vodka it would be!  How about that 360 Double Chocolate Vodka that I love so well?  Yep, that was the one.  The 360 is the only flavored vodka I use these days….I much prefer to infuse my own spirits!

And so the Firebolt was born.  Lime, avocado, jalapeno, green cardamom…all beautiful green colors and flavors blended into a drink that hits a myriad of notes.  Sweet and heat, smooth and tart, chocolate and spice make for one beautiful, positively delicious cocktail!    

Avocado Firebolt

  • 1/8 avocado, nice and ripe
  • 1-3 slices jalapeno chile pepper, more or less, depending on how hot you like it! (you know I used 3...maybe more)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka, 360 Double Chocolate Vodka!
  • 1 ounce simple syrup, green cardamom kind*
  • club soda, a splash

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the avocado and jalapeno very well.  Add lime juice, vodka & simple syrup.  Add ice 3/4 of the way up, cap tightly and shake until the tin is frosted and very cold.
Using a cocktail strainer, strain the liquid from the tin into the glass of the shaker.  Using a small mesh strainer, strain the liquid again into an ice-filled glass and top with a splash or two of soda.  Garnish and serve!

*Green cardamom simple syrup:  (I buy green cardamom pods at Penzey's in the Strip District.)  In a small pot, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in 1/4 cup green cardamom pods, remove from the heat and let sit until cool.  Strain into a container with a lid.  Add a teaspoon of vodka to help keep the syrup longer.  Store in the fridge. 

P.S. The photo isn't very good so I'll take another tonight when I enjoy another Firebolt.  Sigh...the sacrifices.  :)