Ceviche

The process of ‘cooking’ fish or shrimp in a citrus marinade is ancient and still common in Central and South American coastal communities. Lime, lemon, grapefruit and bitter orange juices are employed to denature the proteins in fresh halibut, mahi mahi, sea bass, flounder, shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna and mackerel.

Traditional flavorings vary by region and can include salt, onion, chiles, avocado, coriander, parsley, cilantro, hot and sweet peppers.

This citrus pickling of fresh seafood can take from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the fish chosen and the thickness of the cut. More delicate fish like flounder or other white fish may be served after a brief period of marinating, while octopus and squid may take as long as 3-8 hours, depending on how they are cut and prepared. Read the rest of this entry »

Bert’s Coffee Cake

Finished coffee cakes

Every year Barb makes these coffee cakes from a recipe she got from her sister-in-law, Sally Boscaljon.   Every year people ask her for the recipe, which she gladly shares.   The thing is,  it’s hard to explain in just words how to put this together, so here’s an illustrated recipe!  (The extra set of hands belong to Barb’s son Jesse who was part of the first-ever Bert’s Coffee Cake Ring! Read the rest of this entry »

Gabe’s Cooking Audition

This comes from my youngest son, Gabriel….

Gabe’s Cooking Audition

On Tuesday August 19, 2008, I was scheduled for a cooking audition between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm at Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, a local establishment in Chapel Hill, NC. I had no idea what ingredients I might face when I walked through the door.

My instructions were as follows: prepare two servings of one appetizer, one salad, and one entree. And in the three dishes I had to use the ingredients I was given at least once throughout the courses. My ingredients were:

  1. Salmon
  2. Bratwurst
  3. Strip loin (the vein-y end that no one wants to work with)
  4. Shrimp
  5. Red Onion
  6. Poblano Peppers
  7. Artichokes
  8. Chopped Precooked Bacon
  9. Butternut Squash

I played with several ideas for each of the dishes. The salad was the first one that was set in stone, while the other two flipped around a bit. I settled down and set to work. Read the rest of this entry »

Cod with salsa, Brussels sprouts, black beans and tortillas

A delicious meal prepared by our guest chef Eric Goodenough:

Cod with a topping of sautéed onions, red bell pepper, chipotle*, garlic, olive oil, freshly toasted and ground cumin, sea salt, fresh cilantro, one diced ripe tomato and juice of one lime.

Served with Brussels sprouts, sliced in half, cooked flat edge down in a pan with butter, rice, black beans and handmade corn tortillas from a latino market in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The black beans were cooked with minced onion, toasted and ground cumin and ground cinnamon and cured lemons.

*A chipotle is a dried smoked jalapeño. Put it in a dry pan and heat it up. This softens it and allows you to get the seeds out. For more heat, you can leave the seeds in.

Dried Mexican Chiles

Cooking with Dried Mexican Chiles

For a long time, afraid of the heat, I was shy about cooking with Mexican chiles. Then I learned that if something is too spicy hot, one can calm it down – not with yoghurt, or potatoes, or cream, but – with sweetness. Experience teaches us that you can dilute all you want and all you’ll wind up with is a LOT more of something that’s too spicy. Sugar is your safety valve when it comes to playing with fire.

Whether it’s dried cranberries or apricots, raisins, sugar, you can tame a dish that has gotten away from you, if you’ll just allow yourself to partake of one (or some) of the sweeter things in life. (Consider striking a blow against your Calvinist upbringing; you know who you are.)

Science: The Scoville Scale

Chile peppers are hot (or more accurately, piquant) to the extent that they contain ‘capsaicin,’ a chemical compound that stimulates chemical-neuro receptors in the skin and more especially mucous membranes of the body.

Wilbur Scoville’s original (1912) method for rating chile peppers was to dilute a solution of the pepper extract with sugar water until the “heat” is no longer detectable on the tongues of a panel of (usually five) tasters. The degree of dilution determines a chile’s score on the Scoville scale. Higher the dilution necessary, the hotter the pepper. Read the rest of this entry »

Chipotle-Bourbon Pork Chops near Retsoff, NY

One Sunday evening in early May, while preparing to perform in the schools of this Rochester, NY region, I literally stumbled upon the chock full parking lot of the Yard of Ale restaurant.

A full parking lot out in the middle of nowhere is a fine recommendation for a restaurant. I pulled into the lot and joined the other patrons inside. The dishes I walked past looked hand made, interesting, well-proportioned.

The special that caught my eye that evening was a Chipotle-Bourbon Pork Chop with crispy onions, garlic mashed potatoes, beans and summer squash.

I started the meal with a local beer and an optional caesar salad (a real caesar salad, by the way: anchovies obvious in the dressing and optional on the salad itself…the best caesar salad I’ve had in years). Read the rest of this entry »

Lemon Confit

From Tom Colicchio’s “Thinking Like A Chef,” a book I unhesitatingly recommend to you: beautiful, freeing and useful. ‘Confit’ is simply a fancy french term that means ‘preserved.’

I toss these in with green beans or roasted asparagus;  chop them up with roma tomatoes and fresh herbs to put on fish, chicken or pork; lay them on top of baked meats of all kinds, toss them into soups or pasta dishes. I’ve been thinking about combining them with calamata olives and dried cranberries (but it’s going to be pretty salty)….

I gave little jars of these away for Christmas. They can survive outside the refrigerator for a week or so without suffering, but should be refrigerated after mailing. The bright red color mixed in is difficult to resist.

Here’s how it’s done: Read the rest of this entry »

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

April 4, 2008

The fortieth anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I performed at his memorial service in our high school with the first black teacher I had ever seen, Winfield Pate. He played piano, I played guitar. We sang “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

Preliminaries:

Buy shrimp in the shell. the shells are loaded with flavor. This is true for bones in meat and fowl, too. Clean the shrimp and save the shells, freeze them to make stock later, or roast them and then boil them to make a flavorful sauce for the dish. It takes a little longer, but what’s your rush? You want fast food?

Here’s how the trouble started: Read the rest of this entry »

Cured Salmon

I had my first taste of lox when I moved to New York City in 1975. I was cooking for Richard Scheckner and the Performance Group’s production of ‘Mother Courage’, working briefly at the Elephant & Castle as a salad/prep chef, fiddling on the street corners of Greenwich Village (this won out hands down over the Elephant & Castle gig which was an eight hour shift, with an hour of prep and an hour at least of clean up off the clock for a whopping $21.75/shift before taxes). I eventually wound up working on ‘Einstein on the Beach’ with Phil Glass and Robert Wilson.

And eating bagels.

When I first heard about home curing salmon, I immediately gave it a try. It turns out that its dead simple to turn a $12 piece of fresh salmon into something like $50 worth of gravlax. All it takes is a little kosher salt, sugar, some (preferably) fresh herbs of one sort or another, some plastic wrap, and anywhere from 36 hours minimum to 2-3 days. Read the rest of this entry »

Sourdough

Background

I became interested in sourdough and set up my sourdough starter in 1975 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I dried it out and put it in suspended animation when I went to Ireland and Europe in the spring of 1976 for what turned out to be a year. I awakened it when I got home and have been keeping it going one way or the other (inert or active) ever since.

In the late 1970s, my friend Kate baked at Souen, a macrobiotic restaurant on the Upper West Side (relocated now to the East Village, south of Union Square). One morning I got a call from Kate. She was in a state.

“I’ve dropped our starter and it’s all full of glass!” she said. “Could we have some of yours?”

I don’t know of Souen is still making Ainslie sourdough, but for many years, they were.

Your Own Starter

Freshly ground flour is a help when you’re trying to attract wild yeasts, which is what a sourdough starter requires. The little hoodlums are in the air. We simply need to set up a food source and wait. They will refine themselves over time and become a population that thrives of bread flours, rather than say, grapes. Read the rest of this entry »