Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Camarão na Moranga and Halloween

Yes....I'm quite aware that Thanksgiving is pending....but if you follow my posting history as of late, you'll see that I am rather sporadic and tardy anymore. Life is full, and the demands are great...which means many things are languishing. I would rather write than work, but somehow my employers see this as poor prioritizing. As I have grown addicted to their money they deposit into my account each week, I have set aside the more important things.

Like babbling on about food.

So...after my Brazilian adventures, I was back home, and enjoying all that Autumn in NJ had to offer. To us, this means festivals and food. I started with Oktoberfest in Smithville, where we drank beer, and I got to buy more of the best Oils & Vinegars in the world for the money from my friend Jackie. I say this because it's entirely true, and has nothing to do with this commercial she filmed:

You can purchase this fine product at City 2 Shore Gourmet, by the way.

Next, we attended the Columbus Parade and Italian Fest in Seaside Heights...lots of food and fun every year....but first, a stop at Battleview Orchards for cider....and what do my wondering eyes perceive, but a bin of pumpkins. Not carving pumpkins....but the ones I had in Brazil! They are known here as Long Island Cheese Pumpkins or Moschata Squash...and I had to have one.

So it sat on my kitchen counter for 3 weeks, whilst I  pondered how to make my very own twist on Camarão na Moranga. During this time, my friend and fellow foodie Rebecca dropped very subtle hints that she should be present for that dinner:

Week 1: "My what a beautiful gourd you have"
Week 2: "So.....did you make that Pumpkin without me?" 
Week 3:  "I'd love to be invited for dinner that night, why don't you ask me, and soon?"

Hence, I listened to the little voices I often hear, and had her over....Marissa gave me the idea on how to make it shiny like I remembered it, I loaded it with more veggies than the original, changed the ingredients to make it low-fat, and served it on brown rice. It was, by all accounts, better than in Brazil....and I will provide you the recipe now:

Camarão na Moranga
  • 1 cheese pumpkin, medium (for a switch, use a large acorn squash or two)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups medium-size cleaned shrimp
  • 1 ½ cups onions, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups red peppers, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups bok choy, chopped
  • 4 cloves diced garlic
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoon curry powder (or to your taste)
  • 2 teaspoons Wondra flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½  cups fat-free half & half
  • 1 cup low-fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup reduced shrimp broth
  • 8 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened
  1. Cut off and discard the top of the squash, remove all seeds and stringy fibers and rub the outside surface with 2 tablespoons oil. Bake 1 hour at 250.
  2. While the squash is baking, clean the shrimp, and use the shells to make a broth reduction of ¼ cup.
  3. In a saucepan heat olive oil, and sauté onion until transparent. Add bell peppers and bok choy and cook until vegetables are soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cilantro and curry powder, and sauté until fragrant. Add the Wondra to thicken, and turn off heat.
  4. When the squash is about done, add the half & half, coconut milk and broth to the veggie mixture. Stir over low heat until thickened. Add the cream cheese in bits and continue to stir over low heat until the cheese is melted.
  5. Add the Shrimp to the mixture, and turn the heat off. Pour the mixture into the hot squash. Put the lid back on it.
  6. Place the squash in the oven again, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. 5. When ready, place the whole pumpkin on a serving dish on the table. Serve by scooping the shrimp mixture out, making sure to bring chunks of soft  pumpkin with it! Serve over brown rice.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green...

...or so sang Kermit the Frog. It's also not easy if you are a breakfast juice.

So....there we were in the mountains of the Ibitipoca Nature Reserve...having just spent a day of hiking, drinking wine, and watching the most beautiful sunset. Nato brings us to a beautiful Pousada (Bed & Breakfast) that he knows of there for a great breakfast....

....and on the table was this interesting pitcher of juice. And, as you see, it was rather green.

A sane person would have asked what it was before trying it...but this is me we we're talking about. It was pretty tasty and refreshing! I wasn't really sure what it was, however. Interestingly enough, it was a juice made from pineapple, ginger....and collard greens.

This is why I love to travel....so many things you get to experience, as I don't think Snapple will be coming out with this one any time soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Healthy Eating in Brazil

The first thing I learned in Brazil was that you could find good food anywhere...just don't let your bad grasp of Portuguese indicate you'll find a crappy luncheonette just next store to a primo one.

I giggled while taking this picture....until the owner came over, and badgered me as to why, if I really was a tourist,  I would take pictures of a commercial property instead of something beautiful...he insisted I was casing the joint.

So....in the United States, we focus and fret about our waistlines, and arteries, and just how many grams of fat and how many calories we eat....and yet, studies tell us that we are still growing heavier. I don't need a study to tell me that, a day at the beach is confirmation enough...and while I appreciate having a good sense of self-esteem, I will offer that at 300 lbs, it's time to trade that bikini in for a one-piece.....but as usual, I digress. My point is that I noticed the Brazilian people are all relatively thin, and live to old ages....so they must eat lettuce all day, right?

Wrong. In fact, besides all the beer being consumed all day long, their diet consists of a lot of meat and cheese. And I'm not talking lean meat...I'm talking organs, fat, skin and everything else along with it. My observation is that they all walk more than we do, and are more active, and watch very little television...which appears to offset all the good eating.

This place, for example, is so popular that they had to expand to double their size to a half a city block in the last 2 years. It was packed when I was there, and people were chatting and enjoying the food and drink. Which consisted of only 2 items. Pork Rinds, and Beer. That's all they sell. The beer, as I have mentioned, is ice cold in coolers that monitor temperature.

The rinds come 3 styles that you never see in the USA...all with varying levels of meat attached, all crispy, and all incredibly tasty...Diane, who would never eat a pork rind here, couldn't get enough of them.

Another day, we dined at the restaurant of a friend of the family's. The nice part of travelling with well-connected friends? You don't eat with the crowds...you get to eat in the owners private balcony table, upstairs off his office.

Traditional Brazilian food excites me, and other foodies...but would frighten a vegetarian. On this plate, clockwise starting at the bottom, is steak, okra, chicken hearts, another of those pork rinds covering some other meat, a type of tabbouleh, chicken gizzards, roast pork, and finally feijoada.

Feijoada is the Brazilian national dish, and is prepared with black turtle beans, with a variety of salted pork and beef products, such as salted pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue). This stew is prepared over slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has the beans and meat pieces barely covered by a dark purplish-brown broth. The taste is strong, moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by the flavors of black bean and meat stew. On the left, you'll see another rendition at our host's farm, where the bulk of the meat has been removed from the stew and arranged on a plate.

Brazil offers many other culinary delights besides the meat orgy.....but I'll share them another day. At the moment, believe it or not, I'm craving chicken hearts and gizzards. Yes....they were that good....simmered long and slow with spices, and so tender they would melt in your mouth. If you are reading this and saying 'ewwww"......than you're just not a real foodie!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rice and Shrimp with Octopus (Brasil...Day 5)

From my last post, you likely saw that we had an incredible 2nd day in Rio. I intentionally neglected to elaborate on USAir's bumbling of our flight, beginning with departing Philly 5 hours late, with the bon voyage being "you'll likely miss your connecting flight, and if so, we can connect you to Rio in 4 days. But there's no guarantee. If we cannot, you are entitled to a refund." Makes you just want to fly. Luckily, we actually made our connection because 50 other people missed their connection....but, we had no clothes the first 2 days in Rio as the luggage was 'missing'....

...oh yeah. I neglected because there was no FOOD in that story.

 Anyhow...after 3 great days there...off to Ana (Carmen's sister) & Zehzeh's beach house in Buzios, made famous by Brigette Bardot, for 4 more days of beach, beer, meals & naps. My biggest thrill? Cooking on my third continent and second hemisphere.

Although only approaching Spring in August and a cold snap in the 70's, the beach was still filled with hot babes, and we left our mark upon it.

Here in Buzios, we took advantage of Ana & Zehzeh's kitchen to prepare a few meals. Carmen's mother, Dona Leda, made this simple yet utterly savory dish of Arroz de Polvo com Camarão...or, Rice and Shrimp with Octopus.

Arroz com Camarão

2lbs shrimp
2 cups rice (brown, wild, or white if you must)
2 lbs broccoli (or broccoli heads)

- Remove heads/shells from shrimp, make a stock.
- Prepare rice as normal, incorporate stock into rice
- Saute broc, add shrimp at END to keep from overcooking
- Combine


1 freaking big Octopus, purchased from the local dock
3 Red Peppers
2 Large onions
- Dice and sautee the onions and peppers in oil until brown and velvety
- Add to a pressure cooker with cut-up octopus, some water, and boil for 5 minutes
- Turn off, let sit for 2 hours

Unbelievably too good to describe! I told Dona Leda that I wished to cook for them the next day, and did so, making my Thai Garlic Seafood Stew...recipe when I next make it again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Return of the Foodie...Tales of Brasil

Okay, so once upon a time I wrote a food blog. Then, as usual, summer hit, and the beach, kayak, and cycle beckoned.But tomorrow is the beginning of fall, and that means back to my old pursuits. Like writing about food. Luckily, I have a few things I could write about, as the summer didn't mean an end to EATING....as the extra 10 lbs I'm carrying can certainly attest to.

The source of most of that weight comes from nearly 3 weeks in Brasil, where we traveled with our friends Dan & Carmen. Carmen is Brasilian, and her family is all still there, so the trip was a much more realistic experience than a tourist would get. I learned things that I might have missed otherwise...such as the the national pastime is apparently eating & drinking beer. Beer at near 32 degrees of chilly pleasure. Caipirinha's made fresh all the time. With naps thrown in for good measure. Seriously....I want to retire there. Any country that serves soup with a shot of cachaca as a chaser is my kind of country (more on this sugarcane version of white-lightning later).

So...the second day we are in Brasil, we meet Carmen's brother Renato's good friend Keike, who take us on a walking tour of a street market in Rio. A walking tour appears to require a stop ever 2 blocks for refreshing bitter cold beer...I have NEVER been a beer drinker, but I have to tell you, I drank more beer on this trip than my entire life. It was just that good.

So...keeping in mind we already had 2 big meals that day, Keike invites us for a "small gathering" to "snack" with a chef friend of his at a local restaurant where another chef was serving a version of one of this chefs dishes. Unknown to me at the time, his chef friend turns out to be none other than Claude Troisgros, a rather famous personality in Brazil from a VERY famous family, with TV credits as well as 3 restaurants. So....the 20 of us end up at a very long table, and the "snacks" begin. Starting with beer, and punctuated by beer. Many types of beer. All at nearly 32 degrees.

The first snack was dishes of some type of roasted veggie that looked like a green eggplant...but was slightly bitter, and served with peppercorns and balls of fresh soft goat cheese. Apparently, you took a piece of crusty bread (there was NO bad bread in the entire country), put on the veggie and cheese, and consumed. I wasn't familiar with this, so I had about 10 pieces to make sure I was eating it correctly. Indescribable.

 Then we had some more beer.

The next snack to appear was crispy feijoada balls, made with black beans, collards, and spices. They were gone in a jiffy. This was followed by bacalhau balls. These salt codfish balls were unbelievably succulent, savory, and covered in some truffle-oil. There were big plates of them, which also disappeared quickly....but this time I managed to grab this shot of one before I consumed the last of it....

 Did I mention beer?

Next came the dishes of fried cheese. It was a semi-dry farmers cheese...fried golden brown. getting a bit full, I only had about a half-pound of these. I was beginning to fear how many course of snacks were coming. So I had a beer.

Then came this big pumpkin serving bowls, along with bowls of rice and a type of corn meal. I began to realize at this point that I was in over my head...and wondered what was in the pumpkin bowls. Well...they weren't bowls, they were actual pumpkins...filled with shrimp, cream, cheese, cilantro, and baked....you would scoop out the ingredients along with the soft pumpkin, and serve it with the rice and corn meal. It was so good, I had thirds. I thought I was safe, as surely this was the main and last snack.

Of course, wrong again. Before it was even off the table, out came ribs in some awesome sauce, with another fried vegetable. And beer.

Mercifully, the food stopped coming, the beer finally ended, and strong Brazilian coffee was served. With dessert. A nice light dessert...of fried cheese sticks, with a fruit compote topping. I was too stuffed to eat another bite....so I only had 5 or 6 of these.

I waddled out the door at 6pm and said my goodbye to my new friends...we needed to go back and nap. So we could eat and drink again.

Did I mention I love this Country? It almost ties with Italy...!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Too much going on....

Temporarily on summer hiatus. Also, the camera broke. Will post occasional unpublished material until Labor Day. See you soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Casu Marzu

Found in Sardinia, in Italy, casu marzu is a cheese that is home to live insect larvae. These larvae are deliberately added to the cheese to promote a level of fermentation that is close to decomposition, at which point the cheese’s fats are broken down. The tiny, translucent worms can jump up to half a foot if disturbed, which explains why some people prefer to brush off the insects before enjoying a spoonful of the pungent cheese.

I post this for no reason other than to make durian look downright tasty (see my previous post).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


So while Kevin was visiting, he reminded me that last year I promised we would buy and try a durian. If you don't happen to frequent Asian markets like I do, you may never have heard of it...it is the fruit of several species of tree that are indigenous to Asia. The flesh emits a distinctive odor...distinctive, of course, being code word for "rather strange". Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. My friend Melga hails from Indonesia and loves it. Her husband Vince called it "interesting"...a word which I've found is never a good sign. I had read that the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust...as such, it has led to the fruit's banishment from some hotels and public transportation. Anthony Bourdain, a lover of durian, relates: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother." This somewhat set the stage for our experiment....

You wouldn't want to have one fall out of a tree and hit you in the head, either...it has a thorny armored covering that is so insidious, the cashier at my market wraps it in newspaper before bagging, as it would clearly shred the plastic bag.

Armed with the durian...we proceeded home, where Kevin googled how to open it (pulling along it's 5 seams) in front of the rest of the family. Once opened...we marveled that it didn't smell nearly as bad as we were led to believe...a slight sulfurous smell, and that was all. But the fruit had a  strange looking yellow flesh...and for once, the word "flesh" actually looked like that's what it was. It kind of freaked me out, and most people know I'll eat just about any organ from an animal.

The normally adventurous souls in my house wanted nothing to do with trying it first....so I did. Not vomiting in front of them emboldened them, and they also tried it. It was not unpleasant...we all tried to describe it, but the closest we could agree on was a "mango-like marshmallow chiffon". Kevin found recipes for it...but they were all for desserts, pancakes, and muffins. We decided to put what we didn't eat in the refrigerator until I decided what to do with it.

Which turned out to be to throw it away...when I went back to retrieve it, I found that it had morphed and took on the smell of gym socks filled with rotten eggs. This was the second food (the other being Lima beans) in my life I can honestly say I WON'T be buying again....sorry Melga!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cacciatore di Coniglio Siciliano

The beauty of the language of my Sicilian-Italian heritage is the ability to take something so simple as 'rabbit stew' and make it sound romantic. If you can make the dish the right way, those at the table look at you with affection too. This is a hearty dish of my homeland, whose translation means a Sicilian-style stew made with what a hunter could gather in the field away from home. If he had a slow cooker.

Some people think it barbaric to eat cute animals like rabbits and deer. These people have never been to a farm and seen what the animals they normally eat look like...now there is something barbaric...ever really look at a pig?And...did you know that rabbit has less calories and fat than even chicken breast?

Regardless, my cousin Kevin is here for a visit, so I thought what better way to welcome him than with a meal our great-grandparents made...in fact, my great-uncle & his great-grandfather Charlie (Cologero, really) used to hunt...and I remember him giving my father fresh rabbits and pheasants to grace our table. I give you a recipe for a rich, savory stew that is hearty and tender.

Cacciatore di Coniglio Siciliano

1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, cut into decent sized pieces
day 1:
1.5 Cups of Red Wine
½ head of garlic roughly chopped
2 tbl Chopped rosemary
2 tbl oregano
Prepare a marinade of the above the night before, and let 1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, cut into decent sized pieces, marinade in it in the refrigerator overnight. Then... 
day 2:
¼ lb Smoked Pancetta, diced (bacon if unavailable)
1.5 lb baby onions or onions cut into big chunks
1 lb Crimini mushrooms
1 cup pitted Sicilian Green or Black cured Olives
2 Tbl Capers
1.5 lb Red, Yellow, Orange Peppers, chopped large
1 can whole tomatoes with juice, halved and seeded
Fry the pancetta on a medium high heat in a tiny bit of olive oil until it releases it's natural fat.
Add the pepper and onions and fry until they start to color and soften. Add the capers and olives, set aside after 5 minutes.
Dredge rabbit in flour, brown it in the same pan in some olive oil.  Set aside.
Add the leftover marinade to deglaze the pan. Add the tomato juice from the can, continue until a thickened stock is created.
Add the rabbit and cooked vegetables including the tomato to a crock-pot and cover completely with the stock. Cook on low setting for about 5 hours. Serve with rice, polenta, or bread. I used brown rice.

The fact that I was always a Bugs Bunny fan didn't stop me from embracing the horrifying truth I learned from Monty Python: There are killer rabbits. And we must eat them first.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leeds Point Corn and Crab Chowder (fat-free!)

I'm a little late posting this one...I blame work, of course. The recent nice weather that required my presence on the beach and in my kayak is not to blame at all...as well time visiting cousins so we could feast and speak of that which excites us....FOOD!

One of my passions is soup, which comes from my Polish heritage...nothing cries more for the joy of soup than living in Eastern Europe and dealing with the long cold winter. Unless you count the joy of vodka. But, I digress...many soups in Eastern Europe have cabbage as a staple ingredient, as it grows well in the cold climate. But the love of soup knows no bounds...and here at the Jersey Shore, we are blessed with 2 of God's greatest gifts....Jersey Corn, and Blue-claw Crabs. Which turn out to make an awesome soup. 

In my version, I have found a way to create decadence and only have 1.4 grams of fat and 58 calories per cup by using fat-free half and half in place of cream...you would never know the difference, and I am told this has elevated it to the much vaunted "signature dish" status. The base of this soup is clam broth, another local product that I save when I steam clams.

Leeds Point Corn and Crab Chowder
-2 tbs butter
-1 tbs olive oil
-2 spanish onions, chopped
-2 red bell peppers, chopped (though I used a red and yellow today)
-1 tbs Old Bay seasoning
-4 tbs flour
-3 cups jersey corn kernals scraped fresh from the cob
-1 qt clam broth
-1 qt fat-free half and half
-1/2 lb crabmeat

Heat the oil and butter, saute the onion until translucent. Add the peppers and saute 5 mins more.
Add the Old Bay. Stir. Add the flour, stirring constantly.
Add the clam broth, stir until consistant. Add the half and half, do the same. Bring to a bubble.
Add the corn and crabmeat, simmer 5 minutes...and eat!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tuscan Pork Normanno

Okay....a little honesty here: I make up the names for these recipes. I know you're likely not shocked, as most Italian dishes end with "alla norma", meaning in the normal manner, whereas "Normanno" means Norman, as in the Frankish and Gallo-Roman conquerors from Normandy. I, on the other hand, am in fact a Norman (italics included), neither a Norman nor normal in any manner...so it goes.

Our friend Johnny was visiting from Palm Springs CA, so I thought I'd try to prepare him a dinner that reflected the health conscious west coast, without actually becoming exceedingly healthy. The following dish came to my mind for the abundance of veggies. I originally made it with chicken breast, which is topped with grilled vegetables and a lemon-wine sauce. I must say...I liked it better with pork, which will now be the "signature". I served it with a medley of brown rice/barley/red quinoa. You can find that at good-old Trader Joes. I also made a fat-free Crab and Corn Chowder...I'll post that another day.

Lemon and Wine Sauce
-1 stick butter
-2 Tb Flour
-1 lemon
-1 cup or so white wine

Tuscan Pork Normanno
-Pork loin, sliced into nearly 1 inch medallions, seasoned
-Eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/3 inch medallions
-Yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/3 inch slices 
-Portobello mushrooms, sliced though so there are 2 medallions each
-Zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/3 inch slices
-Roasted Red Peppers

Marinate the first 4 veggies in a little olive oil and seasoned salt.
Make your choice of side-starch.
Make the sauce by melting butter, add 2 tbs flour, squeeze in a lemon, and add the wine.Keep warm.
My grill has a burner...so while I grill those veggies, I pan-fry the pork in a cast-iron skillet on high heat until just barely done.
All that is left is the plating, do it in the order listed, from pork to peppers and top with the sauce.

Please excuse the sloppy plating....I was in a rush, and lost the cork again. The perils of cooking.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clam Sauce

I am often asked why I am willing to travel 2 hours each way to work. The quick answer is that I prefer to suffer in order to work, rather than suffer to get near a beach (weekend shore traffic is like being placed in a pain amplifier). The other reason.....I have connections. Duane lives in one direction, and he hooks me up with fresh soft-shell crabs. In the other direction, John gets me the freshest clams. In the space of an hour, they go from being stuck in the mud to being devoured by a stick-in-the-mud.

While we usually enjoy them raw on the 1/2 shell, when you buy them 100 at a time you get an occasional request to do something different. I made a bunch by topping them with diced bell peppers, vidalia onion & smoked pancetta, broiled....but that wasn't enough, so the next batch I made into a quick clam sauce. Here for your consideration.

Jersey Fresh Clam Sauce
-3 dozen large cherrystone clams
-3 diced bell peppers (pick a color...I used yellow)
-1 lb fresh baby spinach
-1 bunch parsley
-1 lb mushrooms, sliced
-1 head garlic, diced fine.
-olive oil
-Wondra flour

Put 1/2 inch of water in a pot, and steam the clams until they start to open. Do not overcook!
Reserve the clam broth. Shuck the clams, removing the tough muscled. Chop them.
In a pot, saute the garlic and peppers in olive oil. Add the mushrooms.
When all is good....add the spinach and parsley, about a tbl wondra to thicken.
Add 2 cups of the clam broth, and the clams.

I served this over whole wheat medium pasta shells. You may do whatever you wish. Just be happy as a clam.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Collard Greens

I don't know many collard people. This was not intentional, but rather an accident of my youth. My people were artichoke, broccoli rabe, cabbage, chard, and cardoon people. I spent much time around the block at my grandmother's, (who most called "Mama Rose")...often she would send me into the alley between her house and the garage next store to pick wild cardoon, whereupon she would fry it into delicious patties with egg, grated cheese and breadcrumb.

The fact that they often spray-painted cars in that garage, venting into the alley, and the fact that those patties were likely clogging my arteries at an early age has yet to catch up with me. I loved her dearly, and her cooking...she inspires me to this day, admittedly with a more healthier focus.

But I digress. Back to how I became a collard person.

It was about the year 2000, and we were at the Atlantic City Seafood Festival, and between beer and the ever-present crafters, we decided to go to the food booths to sample some great seafood. Unfortunately, it was over-priced, or utterly fried and dried crap. I mean, $7 for 5 grizzled scallops on a BBQ skewer? Not my cheap ass.

Then, I saw a booth for Kelsey & Kim's Soul Food. Appreciating the irony that this was, in fact, a seafood fest, we saw them serving heaping platters of steaming spicy pulled pork, with a side of this green stuff that was cooked with the pork. Collards! I had never tried them. We got a couple of plates, sat on a hill near the band, and had an unbelievably delicious feast of savory spicy pork, and these rich hearty greens. It turns out to be the perfect green for slow-cooking for hours without having it turn into a liquid. Needing more, and in quantity, I began playing with my own recipe's.

Pulled Pork with Collard Greens
-1 Pork Shoulder
-2 lg bunches Collard Greens
-1 to 2 cup of "sauce" (I use a Georgia Peach/Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce) 

Trim the shoulder of all skin and fat visible. 
Place in a big roasting pan, bony side down. Put in an oven for 1 hour at 350.
Wash collards well. Remove stems, and chop.
Reduce heat to 225, add collards around shoulder, and cover. Cook 4 hours.
Remove collards, then shred the pork with 2 forks. Feast!

Collard Greens with Smoked Pork
I came across smoked pork neck-bones the other day for 50 cents a pound. I wasn't sure what to do with them, but anything on sale for that price is fair game to me...so I made a batch of collards with them. It gave it a rich taste, with all the smoky flavor. My friend Kim's father uses smoked turkey legs, which were also delicious, but I think you would prefer a good pork any day.

-2 lbs of smoked pork neck-bones, turkey legs, etc.
-2 lg bunches Collard Greens

Wash collards well. Remove stems, and chop.
Fill a dutch oven with 1/2 the collards, 1/2 the meat, and repeat. Pour in 2 cups of water.
Cook at 225 for 3 hours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Normanno

As is my habit, I like to make meals on the wing in the iron chef fashion. The downside is that I like to drink wine. Sometimes I use a very big glass. This usually results in meals that I can’t replicate 6 months later when asked. So….I began keeping a composition book in the kitchen, and when I make something everyone really likes, I write down the recipe, and give it a name. This way, when I’m asked to make it again, I can remember what the heck they are talking about…but then no one else knows what I am talking about. This results in some great conversations.

Diane: Why don’t you make that Chicken thingy again?
Me: What was in it?
Diane: Capers
Me: (looking up all the chicken recipes) Mediterranean Chicken Normanno?
Diane: Whatever
Sometime Later
Nicole: What’s for dinner?
Me: Mediterranean Chicken Normanno
Nicole: What the heck is that?
Me: Something I made once
Nicole: Whatever
Marissa: What’s for dinner?
Me: Mediterranean Chicken Normanno
Marissa: What’s in it?
Me: I made it before… It has stuff in it
Marissa: Sounds great
Still Later
Isabella: What’s that?
Me: Mediterranean Chicken Normanno
Isabella: I don’t like it
Me: It has macaroni in it
Isabella: I like it

So…here is the recipe that they all seem to love (I sense this because they throw that “signature dish” phrase around when I make it...and there isn't any left for me to take to work for lunch.

-2 lbs of whole chicken breast
-2 lbs of whole crimini mushrooms, halved
-1 can pitted olives, halved
-1/2 cup capers
-1 32 oz. can Tuttorosa plum tomatoes, halved and seeds removed. Save the juice.
-3/4 cup homemade pesto
-1 ½ cups of red wine (I open a bottle, and use the “I lost the cork” excuse to finish it)
In a pan/pot, sauté the whole breasts at high heat until brown each side. Set aside
Add the mushrooms…sauté until done.
Add the olives & capers. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, pesto and red wine, and simmer 10 more minutes.
Meantime, slice the chicken into thin slices, then add to the pot. Simmer 3 minutes.

I served this on a bed of homemade spinach fettuccine that my daughters and I whipped together just beforehand in an effort to stop them from asking me questions I couldn’t answer. It works.

Sorry if the picture is blurry. I blame it on the missing cork.

Stretching Chicken

I am notoriously frugal. Of course, my friends say that is code for "cheap"...but in reality I hate waste, and will wear things out before I contribute to the trash stream with more "stuff".

The exception, of course, would be food. I will spend anything, without any thought to price, for exceptional ingredients. The nice people at Claudio's at the Italian Market in South Philly will attest to this...I drop large sums (aka my kids college funds) there for cheese and cured meats.

Chicken, of course, does not qualify for exceptional status. I mean, how special is a bird that everyone claims other things taste like? "Alligator", my cousin Kenny recently stated, "tastes like chewy chicken". Rabbit is said to taste like it, reputedly, so do frogs legs. (My father once told me a joke about 2 lesbian frogs...I'll leave it to your imagination.) Oddly, turkey is the same family, but no one ever claims that it tastes like chicken.

So...imagine my glee when Shoprite recently ran breasts on the bone for .99 lb. Armed with $15, I procured 3 packages of 4 each. In keeping with no waste, I was able to convert this fowl product into more than a week of meals for my family of 5. How?

1) I de-boned them into 12 breasts of approximately 1 lb. each. 
2) I cooked the bones, strained the broth, and made over 2 gallons of soup.
3) I picked the meat from the resulting bones, and made chicken salad.

For your consideration, the soup and salad recipes. I was aided by mushrooms, yellow & orange peppers, and vidalia onions which all happened to be on sale this week.

Chicken Soup (one of many versions)
- add 2 or more lbs of well-rinsed chopped escarole to the aforementioned broth
- add a pound of sliced mushooms
- add 2 lbs of carrots, sliced
- add a cup of pastina (a tiny macaroni)
- add a 1/2 head of garlic, chopped
- add some of the picked white meat from above
- simmer, eat. keep in mind you can add just about any veggies to this.
Chicken Salad
- a bunch of the picked chicken, chopped
- 2 yellow and 2 orange bell peppers, diced
- 2 small vidalia onions, diced
- some garlic powder and seasoned salt to taste
- a few tablespoons of mayo, barely enough to moisten
- the family seemed to enjoy eating this on anything, but especially by making wraps with baby spinach leaves and buffalo mayo

Coming next...my recipe using 2 breasts for what I call "Mediterranean Chicken Normanno".

PS...the winning entry in the dish naming contest was "Piccolini con avanzi di merda". It appears some of you have a sense of humor....type it into Google translations and enjoy the translation from Italian. Ciao!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kluski Kapusta Po (Cabbage & Bows)

Polish Comfort Food. For those of you with such roots, this dish brings a smile on a cold winters day. Of course, you may ask "hey, it's almost Memorial day, aren't you a wee bit late on the uptake here...?"  Well, we've been feasting on clams on the 1/2 shell & soft-shell crabs the last few days....and haven't made anything newsworthy....so....as the blog is dying a slow death from it's initial excitement....I thought I'd give you some filler while we wait to see who I send a $10 check to for the silly contest at left. 

Coming soon: Collards. And why Google & I decided to no longer carry ads on this blog. Bon appetit!

-2 lg Spanish onions, diced
-3/4 lb smoked pancetta (bacon, if you must), diced small
-6 lb cabbage, chunked
-1 lb farfalle (bow ties)

-Saute' the 1st 3 items
-Add the cabbage, cook until wilted
-While you do this, cook AL DENTE the farfalle
-Strain and add the farfalle

The longer it sits as a leftover....the better it tastes! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dish naming Contest

So....what I thought was a novel idea was rather a bust. I had grandiose visions of 60 entries, me sifting through them diligently, winnowing feverishly to the final 5....and lots of excitement!

They said not to smoke hashish in college, it would lead to delusions of grandeur. They might have also pointed out that $10 prizes are about as motivating as an opportunity to french-kiss your mom.

Regardless, some intrepid souls ventured to bare their imaginations. On the left are their offerings. Please ignore the former Mayor Daley's advice and only vote once? Have fun! (And feel free to comment how I can spice up the next contest).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eggplant Parmigiana alla Normanno

What is a “signature dish”? I’m told that mine is my Eggplant Parmigiana. As in “what do you mean you’re not making it for your Christmas Eve party this year….it’s your signature dish, you jerk”!!

As defined: A signature dish is a recipe that identifies an individual chef. Ideally it should be unique and allow an informed gastronome to name the chef in a blind tasting. It can be thought of as the culinary equivalent of an artist finding their own style, or an author finding their own voice. In practice a chef's signature dish often changes with time or they may claim several signature dishes.

I’m not sure if my wine-guzzling friends qualify as “informed gastronomes” as much as perhaps “buzzed friends with munchies”...and referring to myself as a chef would be akin to calling myself a captain while on a canoe trip. I do like the part about changing over time…my recipes certainly do. What I once prepared as a traditional type recipe, loaded with breaded eggplant dripping in the oil it was fried in,  was altered by me to become un-fried and therefor healthier (that is to say, less likely to make me begin to resemble a bowling pin). The trick to this dish came to me one day eating leftovers, when of course one tends to point out "tomato dishes always tastes better the second day". So....why not incorporate this into the recipe itself, I pondered? I hope you enjoy my latest take on this quest.

3 eggplant, peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
¼ lb fresh mozzarella
¼ lb. shredded supermarket mozzarella
1 packed cup basil leaves (I slummed and used my frozen crushed ones from the garden)
½ cup grated parmesan (Locatelli brand, of course)
tomato sauce (for this dish, simplicity: I sauté 2 finely chopped onions & a head of garlic in some olive oil, add 1 cup red wine, 2 cans puree, 2 cans crushed, a bunch of oregano from my garden…or yours. Simmer an hour.)

15 easy steps to prepare:
1. oiled baking pan with eggplant
2. broil eggplant until brown
3. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with breadcrumb
4. Cover with a layer of eggplant
5. Cover with tomato sauce
6. Cover with shredded mozzarella
7. Scatter with basil leaves
8. Cover with Parmesan
9. Cover with another layer of eggplant
10. Top with tomato sauce
11. Top with fresh mozzarella slices & Sicilian oregano (more on this another day)
12. Bake at 350 for an hour, covered
13. Let sit in the oven until cool
14. Put in refrigerator for a day….or more
15. Reheat at 350 for an hour, covered…..and feast!