Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo

How do you welcome this perfectly wonderful Autumn season? In my kitchen, you know the Fall cool down has begun when there's a big pot of homemade soup simmering on the back burner of the stove. It's just so very comforting.

The "smoky" part of this brand new recipe comes from two sources. The beef broth was built on a base of leftover (planned over) beef ribs I'd smoked for dinner on Sunday and the addition of smoked Spanish-style chorizo doubled down the smoke factor. I used a good and spicy rub on the ribs to lend a subtle heat to the dish for my tastes. If you like heat, use a spicy rub, if not, then don't!

Fresh autumn roasted sugar pumpkin, ribbons of purple kale, and last-of-the-summer tomatoes and sweet red peppers really pumped up the color and flavor. The gold and red and green and purple colors in the bowl make me think of fallen leaves...and it's as beautiful in the bowl as it is warm, comforting and delicious in your tummy. 

Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo

  • 6 meaty beef ribs, rubbed with your favorite rub (use a rub with some heat to it if you like your soup spicy), smoked the day before - I remove the meat for other purposes (tacos!) and leave a bit of meat on for the soup
  • 1 nice sized beef soup bone
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast the smoked ribs and beef soup bone for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to get lots of deep beefy flavor from them for your broth.

  • 1/2 medium sugar pumpkin, seeded & guts removed, rind peeled and cut into 1" X 1/2" chunks. Spray with coconut oil, season with salt & pepper & roast at 425 degrees until caramelized. Cool and set aside.
Roast the pumpkin chunks at the same time you roast the bones. While the bones and pumpkin are roasting, start working on the veggies.

  • 12 oz. smoked chorizo - I used the Wellshire brand - cut into 1/2 moons
  • 2 medium leeks (approx 2 C) diced small
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, diced small
  • 1 1/2 C carrots, diced small
In a large skillet, saute the chorizo until it releases some fat and begins to brown. Then add the leeks, celery and carrots and saute until the veggies soften. Set aside.

  • 1 lrg red bell pepper, seeds removed, diced (approx. 1 C)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (approx. 1 C or so)
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, diced 
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T or so Jane's Crazy Mixed Up seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 C (packed) purple kale, sliced across into thin ribbons

Beef broth: Put the roasted bones into a large soup pot and just cover with water. Add the sauteed veggies, and all the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT for the kale and roasted pumpkin - they'll go in at the end.

Bring the pot to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Once the broth has developed full flavor, remove the bones to a tray and cool. Remove any meat and add to the soup.

Bring the soup to a boil again and add the kale. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the kale is softened, then add the roasted pumpkin. Let the soup simmer another 10 minutes or so, remove the stems from the thyme springs and serve. A nice pan of cornbread goes great!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Smoky Bloody Maria Salsa With Mezcal AND Smoked Guacamole

The old smoker has been putting in some overtime! A little get together on Sunday with friends who love to cook (and eat!) had my trusty old smoker chugging away with a few delights - brisket and 2 kinds of salmon, for starters. The smoker also contained some, perhaps, unexpected items. Like avocados. 

Just this last week I saw a comment somewhere about smoking avocados and a lightbulb went off...BING! Smoked guacamole! Would it work? I gave it a try. 

At the same time, a Facebook cooking group I'm part of was discussing a BBQ competition one of our members (Matt the Butcher...yes, he is a butcher) is judging. The twist of being a judge for this event is that each judge was asked to bring a salsa TO BE JUDGED. The judges being judged...nice twist, eh? 

One thing led to another and eventually the idea of smoking the salsa veggies emerged, which led to emphasizing the smoke with mezcal instead of tequila and (somehow) the idea of a Smoked Bloody Maria Salsa was proposed. I HAD to try it. 

The results? Wow! Both the salsa AND the guac rocked. And they went onto the menu for the dinner party. The unexpected  smoky flavors in two traditional dips were a hit! The guac even tasted like it had bacon hidden somewhere in the ingredients...and it was totally veggie.

Just in case you've got a yen for the unexpected, here are the recipes to surprise your own guests. And good luck, Matt the Butcher...you've GOT this!

Smoked Bloody Maria Salsa With Mezcal

  • 4 large Roma tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 1 large jalapeno, cut in half - don't remove the seeds or ribs if you like your salsa hot
Heat up your smoker and use a combo of pecan and hickory chips. Smoke the veggies at least an hour or until soft. Remove and let cool.

Add the smoked veggies to your food processor, then add:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • a bit of kosher salt
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T horseradish
  • the juice of 1 or 2 limes - depends on how juicy your limes are, taste and adjust to your own tast
  • 1-2 T mezcal
  • 1/4 C or so of chopped cilantro - again, to your own taste

Buzz everything in the food processor until salsa consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with tortilla chips.

Smoked Guacamole

  • 3 avocados, cut in half lengthwise, pits removed - throw the halves into the smoker, cut side down, while the veggies for the salsa are smoking - cool
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, finely minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely miniced
  • 2 T or so (adjust to your own level of heat) finely minced red jalapeno (the red is just for the color, use green if that's all you have or can find)
  • the juice of a lime - or more according to your own taste
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 - 2 T cilantro, chopped

Scoop out the cooled avocado flesh and put into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mash well with a fork. The mixture will be extra creamy because the avocados are cooked, so don't expect a chunky guac. YUM! Serve with tortilla chips or use in a wrap or any other way you can imagine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Smoked Fig Rum Old Fashioned and A Simple Mai Tai With Appleton Estate Rum

Rare would be an afternoon more convivial than one spent in the good company of rum afficianados, especially when the rum is Appleton Estate, "Crafted in the Heart of Jamaica." The gathering consisted of bartenders, rum fans, food and drink journalists, and David Morrison, Appleton Estate's Senior Blender (the fine gentleman straight from Jamaica!) to guide us in the afternoon's rum education. 

Both David and Willy Shine (Total Beverage Solutions Agency) led us through the provenance, history and the blending of fine Jamaican rum....Appleton Estate rum!  As Senior Blender, David schooled us in what it takes to blend some of the finest rums available: growing the best types of sugarcane in the fertile fields in the heart of Jamaica, distilling the precious liquid, Appleton's dedication to protecting the environment in the Nassau Valley of Jamaica, and the blending of the fruits of their efforts. Speaking of blending....

Each participant was provided with four bottles of various rums from the Estate and asked to create our own individual blend. The object was to create a "mixable" rum. We all set to work with bottles labeled "A" - "D" for our own take on what we'd enjoy making into a fine cocktail. 

The Appleton blending challenge lineup.

We each added our own selected portions into a bottle that would eventually contain our own private blended, mixable rum. Once that was done, we were instructed to write our name on the bottom of a clean glass, pour a bit of our individual blend into it, and present it to David and Willy who then selected the three top mixing blends of the session.

Lynn, of Acacia in the Southside, quite deservedly won the top prize! Stunningly, I won third and a bottle of Appleton Estate Reserve Blend. Honestly, I couldn't have been more shocked. 

David Morrison, Appleton Estate Senior Blender, awarding my prize bottle of rum!

Okay, now that we have a "mixable" rum, what do we mix with it? I came up with twists on two classics, the first using the bottle I got for third place in a Smoked Fig Rum Old Fashioned, and the 2nd cocktail using my custom blend and Appleton Signature Blend. I hope you make one (or both!) of them to enjoy soon.

Smoked Fig Rum Old Fashioned

  • 2 small sugar cubes (Domino calls them "dots")
  • 1/2 oz smoked fig syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 t. Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • 2 oz. Appleton Estate Reserve Blend rum
  • a strip of orange peel for garnish
  • a fresh Black Mission fig half for garnish
In an old fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cubes, smoked fig syrup and the bitters. Add the rum and stir well until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add a large ice cube, twist the orange peel over the top of the glass and garnish the drink with the peel and a fresh fig half. 

Smoked Fig Syrup: Smoke 10 fresh Black Mission figs, cut in half, in a smoker for half an hour until the figs are soft and syrupy juices are running. I used a combo of apple and pecan wood and threw the figs on the top shelf while I was smoking meatloaf on Sunday. Cool the figs.

In a small pot, combine a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Add the smoked figs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer the figs in the syrup for 20 minutes. Mash the figs a few times while cooking. Turn off the heat and let cool. 

Pour the mixture into a strainer over a bowl and let the syrup drain. Press the solids with a spoon against the sides of the strainer until ALL the liquid is released into the bowl. Pour the fig syrup into a jar and cap tightly. Don't throw out the solids! Use the remains to make cookies or fig bread. Yum. Now go make you Smoked Fig Rum Old Fashioned. You've earned it!

A Simple Mai Tai

  • 1 oz light rum (Appleton, of course!), I used my very own blend
  • 1 oz. Appleton Estate Reserve Rum Blend
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat (I used Beach Bum Berry's own from Latitude 29, you can make your own or buy one online)
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • juice of 1/2 a lime

Fill a cocktail tin 3/4 of the way of up ice. Add all ingredients and shake until the tin is frosted. Pour over ice and garnish. Told you it was simple!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pineapple Kalua Pork On The Smoker for Hawaiian Salads (and more)

One of the advantages of buying all sorts of spices, herbs and salts (that I may or may not use right away) is when I decide on a new recipe to try, there's a damned good possibility I might just have everything I need on hand. As was the case when I decided to duplicate the Hawaiian Salad with kalua pork from Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar & Grille in Bethany Beach, DE. Yep, another of the dishes we enjoyed so much on vacation that we needed to do it again at home. 

The salad itself is fairly simple...just a matter of assembling the various components that make it "Hawaiian." What would that be? First and foremost, smoky kalua pork. We'll talk about that in a minute. The rest? Pineapple, of course, and mango, banana chips, coconut chips (Trader Joes!), macadamia nuts all mounded on a (not just Hawaiian) base of lettuce and baby spinach. 

The dressing? A decadent rich and creamy pineapple tahini dressing. The surprising thing about duplicating the dressing is that my version is relatively low in calories! Only 39 calories to 1/4 cup of dressing. You'd never guess. The Belgian endive in the pic? Decidedly NOT Hawaiian, but I'm guessing they used the spears to look life surfboards in the sand at the beach...that's what they looked like to me anyway.

Okay, back to the kalua pork. Most recipes I've seen call for the use of liquid smoke. Come on. Really? King Kamehameha's chefs had liquid smoke on hand? I'm thinking that's a no. Why not be a (little) more authentic and put some real smoke on this baby?! What's the point of having a smoker if you don't use it instead of the fake stuff? So I did. I didn't, however, wrap the pork in banana leaves. (Hmmmmm...maybe a stealthy trip to Phipps Conservatory would have been just the thing. Just kidding!)

Anyway, here's what Kimber and I came up with and I have to say it was every bit as good as the original. And the Pineapple Coconut Tahini Dressing was even better! I'd say it was `Ono Lani. That's "delicious heaven" in Hawaiian!

The Hawaiian Salad we enjoyed at Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar & Grille in Bethany Beach, DE

Pineapple Kalua Pork on the Smoker 
for Hawaiian Salad

  • 2 pork tenderloins, pierced all over with a knife
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, paper skins removed, smashed
  • 2" long piece of fresh ginger, peeled, cut into coins and smashed
  • 2 C fresh pineapple with all the juices
  • 1 T Salish Alderwood smoked salt (look for it in your local gourmet food shop or order it from Gourmet Delights like I do)
  • 1 1/2 t coarse black lava Hawaiian salt (check Amazon)
  • 1 t Hawaaian pink salt (check Amazon)

In a gallon size zip top bag, mix together the garlic, ginger, pineapple and the salts. Add the pork tenderloins, squeeze out all the air, seal and evenly distribute the marinade mixture evenly around the tenderloins. Marinate 12-24 hours.

The next day, prepare your smoker and set the temp to 225 degrees. Remove the tenderloins from the bag, pour the marinade into the water bowl in your smoker along with water to fill. Smoke the tenderloins until they reach an internal temp of 180 degrees or until still moist and tender, but beginning to fall apart. Take it off and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before pulling.

Because a tenderloin is a long muscle, before I "pulled" the pork, I cut it into 2" slices across the grain and then pulled it. It's ready now to use in the salad or sandwiches on King's Hawaiian buns! If using in sandwiches, use a little pineapple juice to moisten the pork and maybe a little Asian-style BBQ sauce. Delicious!

Now for the dressing:

Pineapple Coconut Tahini Dressing

  • approx 3/4 C fresh pineapple chunks
  • approx 1/4 C tahini
  • 2 T mirin
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T cream of coconut (yep, the same stuff you use in a pina colada!)
Throw everything into a blender and let 'er rip!

Hawaiian Salad ala Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar & Grille

  • mixed greens of baby spinach and lettuces of choice
  • a few spears (surfboards) of Belgian endive
  • fresh pineapple chunks
  • coconut chips (yes, I forgot to put them on the salad before the pic! But we put them on when we ate it!)
  • macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • banana chips
  • fresh mango, diced
  • kalua pork
  • pineapple coconut tahini dressing
In a shallow bowl, make a bed of spinach and lettuce, top with the above and enjoy! Aloha!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Philly Cheesesteak Dip ala OC Brewing Company

Buh-bye summer! It's been fun! But doesn't it seem that autumn is making some serious headway into town even before we're ready for it? Before I'm ready for it anyway.  

Who would imagine that on our beach vacation where we normally feast on crab and Maryland corn (and believe me, we did plenty of crab feasting!), that we'd discover what could become the best tailgate recipe I've come across in many a moon: Philly Cheesesteak Dip from OC Brewing Company in Ocean City, MD. One taste and I knew immediately this one would be a Dinner Plan-it duplication to share with all of you!

The dip at OC Brewing brought all the classic flavors of a cheesesteak into one hot, bubbling casserole dish to dip with their house-made big, crusty pretzels. Now you know I can't do pretzels, so they fried up a batch of their house-made crunchy and sturdy potato chips for dipping instead. Browned pieces of thinly sliced steak, sweet onion and green peppers were surrounded by a 5 cheese sauce so lush and spot on, it was just like dipping into a real Philly Cheesesteak! 

The dip as served at OC Brewing...minus the big soft pretzel, with their homemade chips.

What did I change? Not much. I added mushrooms and garnished it with hot pepper rings, because that's how I take my cheesesteak hoagie. If you don't care for mushrooms, leave them out like they do at OC Brewing. I don't know what cheeses they used, only that there were five of them...so I used my favorite. Cream cheese for the creamy base, shredded ColbyJack (because I had it on hand - and because it melts nicely), American and gouda cheeses went in (also for the meltability (new word?) factor and provolone for stretchy, gooey, classic steak sub character.  

Thanks OC Brewing for not just another afternoon/evening of great beers and cocktails and awesome bartenders, but for the inspiration for what will become this year's fave tailgating classic. So what if it was enjoyed first in Raven's country and created in honor of an Eagle's country classic sandwich...it will be consumed with delight within Steeler Nation!

Philly Cheesesteak Dip
ala OC Brewing Company

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 lb thinly sliced top round, cut into slivers about 1 1/2" long
  • Jane's Crazy Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (don't go too "Crazy" with the Crazy Salt, there's lots of salt in all this gooey cheese)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (approx. 1/2 C)
  • 1/2 medium green pepper, diced (approx. 1/2 C)
  • 3/4 C. mushrooms, diced
  • 8 oz. block Lite cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C. shredded ColbyJack cheese, or mild cheddar
  • 4 slices American cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 - 1 C gouda, shredded
  • 3 slices provolone cheese, crumble 2 and reserve 2 whole slices to lay across the top of the finished casserole
  • pickled hot banana pepper rings for garnish
  • pita chips, soft pretzels or toasted baguette slices

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the steak pieces with Crazy Salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a very hot skillet, add the steak pieces and saute until they are nicely browned and caramelized on all sides. Add the veggies to the pan and cook until soft. Remove from heat.

While the steak is cooking, put the lite cream cheese (remember when it used to be called Neufchatel?) into a large bowl. Add the hot steak and veggies to the bowl along with all the delicious juices. Stir the cream cheese, steak and veggies together until well combined. Add the rest of the cheeses (except for the reserved 2 whole slices of provolone) and combine completely.

Spoon mixture into a small cast iron skillet or heat proof casserole dish. Place the reserved provolone over the top and bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly and browned. Remove from oven and garnish with pickled hot banana pepper rings.

Serve with pita or pretzels or baguette slices or sturdy potato chips!

Now, GO STEELERS!!!!!!

P. S.  We didn't vacation in Ocean City, MD this year, but in Rehobeth Beach...and went down to OC just for OC Brewing Company!

Rehoboth Beach, DE by moonlight.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies For Tacos, Frito Pie And Especially For Chris

If there's one thing I'll consistently order at every Mexican restaurant I visit, it's anything that includes rich, flavorful, beefy barbacoa redolent with earthy chilies and warm spices. It hugs both my soul and my tummy at the very same time.

Speaking of warm and wonderful, my dear, sweet friend, Chris (who suddenly passed recently) adored Frito Pie. Of course she did, she was a Texan through and through! Her recipes reflected her great big Texas heart and her fiery, bright spirit; her messages to each member of the cooking group we belonged to were warm and loving. Chris is terribly missed. We are fortunate her love of food - especially all things spicy - lives on in her favorite recipes.

Just what is Frito Pie? It depends on who you ask. Search the internet and it comes in all varieties. Baked. Cold. Some crush the Fritos to make an actual pie crust. Most recipes use chili. Some use canned, some use homemade. Chili with or without beans...it doesn't seem to matter. And that's the beauty of this dish. It is totally versatile, open to interpretation, created each time at the whim of the cook. I love a forgiving recipe, don't you?

Many members of our cooking group made Frito Pie in Chris's memory. Undoubtedly she is smiling down from heaven that, all around the country, we're cooking one of her favorite treats just for her. Chris, this one's for you!

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies

  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, broken into small pieces (look for them in the Latin section of the grocery store)
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, broken into small pieces (look for these in the same place as above)
  • 2 t chipotle chile powder
  • 2 t ancho chile powder
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t hot paprika
  • 3 T espresso powder
  • 2 T granulated garlic
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 2 t cocoa nibs
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers
  • 2 onions, peeled and slivered - I used 1 yellow onion and 1 red onion
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 2 large jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, slivered
  • 1/2 head garlic, skins removed, sliced thinly
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
  • 1 bottle of beer - use a good Mexican beer if you like - I used gluten free beer to keep this GF
  • 2 T demerara sugar - or light brown sugar

In a spice or coffee grinder - or a blender - put the pieces of dried chilies and dried cocoa nibs. Give them a good whirl until they're broken down into small pieces. Transfer to a small bowl and add the chile powders, paprikas, espresso powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, cinnamon, kosher salt and brown sugar. Mix together well. Rub half of the mixture into both sides of the roast and set the rest aside for the next time you make this - and you WILL.

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the chuck roast and add oil. When the oil is good and hot, carefully add the roast to the skillet and brown it well on both sides. 

While the beef is browning, add half the onions, sweet red pepper, garlic slivers and jalapeno to the slow cooker. Once it's browned place the chuck roast on top and add the rest of the onions, peppers, garlic and jalapenos, the can of RoTel and sprinkle on the demerara (or brown) sugar and the envelope of ranch dressing mix. Pour the beer over all, cover and cook on high for 6-7 hours. Once the roast falls apart easily, it's done. 

You can use it right away or refrigerate for the next day. Flavors are always better the next day, aren't they? Use for tacos, Chris's Frito Pie or any other use you can think of. Quesadillas? Sure! Nachos? Why not? Burritos? You bet! Here's how I used my Barbacoa.

Frito Pie for Chris.

Tacos: Take a couple of soft corn tortillas and lay on the barbacoa and your favorite goodies!

Frito Pie: In a shallow bowl, make a layer of Fritos, then barbacoa, shredded colby jack cheese (or your own fave cheese), diced avocado, thinly sliced green onions, a little chopped tomato and a sprinkling of cilantro. Oh, and a slathering of Hatch Chile salsa...Hatch chilies were Chris's favorite!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers

It's morning. You yawn, stretch and head for the kitchen. Once the coffee is on and there's a moment to get the brain cells in gear (at the very least, a few synapses are beginning to fire before the coffee kicks in) the thought occurs, "What's for breakfast?" 

Obviously this is a weekend scenario. Otherwise, there'd be no such leisurely start to the day!

Peeking into the fridge, you spot a pan of leftover cornbread from the previous night's dinner. Hmmmm....cornbread, eggs, buttermilk...why not make French toast with cornbread? Would it work? I can assure you, it most definitely and deliciously does! 

What's it like? Sweet, vanilla notes of French toast sing in the foreground, while at the same time cornmeal crunch and rich corn-iness bring up the beat in the background. And it's easy.

Now pour that cup of coffee, fry up a batch of Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers for the fam and get ready to start your weekend!  

Cornbread Buttermilk French Toast Fingers

Serves 2 (double or triple, if you need!)

  • 8 slices of cornbread, approx. 4" long x 1 1/2" high x 1/2" thick
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 C buttermilk
  • canola oil for frying

First make the French toast dip by beating together the egg, vanilla, sugar, salt and buttermilk in a shallow dish that will hold the cornbread slices flat while you dip them.

Heat a skillet with a skim of oil - you don't want to drown the pieces in oil! 

Carefully dip each piece of cornbread into the dip, being sure to get both sides nicely covered, and gently place into the hot skillet. Brown both sides and serve with maple syrup.  

Leftovers (if there are any) reheat beautifully in the microwave or oven.