Friday, August 31, 2012

Mango BBQ Sauce


Mango BBQ Sauce
(around 3 cups)


Ingredients:

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Yellow Onion, diced (about 1 small onion)
1 cup Red Bell Pepper, seeded & diced (about 1 medium pepper)
3 cloves Fresh Garlic, rough chop
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
½ tsp. Ground Allspice
1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
3 tbsp. Molasses
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp. Fresh Lime Juice
¼ cup tomato sauce (no-salt added)
1 ½ cups Fresh Mango, peeled, seeded & diced (about 1 medium mango)
2 Fresh Jalapeno Peppers, seeded & minced

Directions:

In a large saut√© pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and bring up to temperature.  Add the onion and cook remembering to stir a few times for about 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Next, add the bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and allspice to the pan and continue to cook another 2 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire, lime juice and tomato sauce and cook 1 minute more.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and add the mango and jalapenos.  Pulse the mixture until smooth.  Pour into a container and refrigerate until needed.  Use part of sauce to marinade chicken or pork before grilling and remainder for after the food has been cooked.

Note:               Remember to discard the marinade used for the meat after your done marinating.  Only use the sauce not used to marinade meat for after cooking.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Orange Chipotle Glaze

Orange Chipotle Glaze
(1 quart plus)


Ingredients:

1 cup Orange Juice
2 cups Apple Cider
1 cup Soy Sauce
8 cups Sugar
7 oz. can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, pureed (seeded or not based on heat desired)

Directions:

In a 3-quart sauce pan over medium heat reduce OJ to a ¼ cup.  Add the remaining ingredients using a whisk and continue to reduce until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and thickens.   Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Then place the mixture in a sealable container and refrigerate until needed.  You can use this glaze to marinate as well as brush on food as you grill.

Note:               This glaze is great for poultry and pork products.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Sweet Dill Pickles

Quick Sweet Dill Pickles
(8-12 servings)


Ingredients:

32 oz. jar Whole Dill Pickles (any brand)
1 1/3 cup Sugar
3 tbsp. White Vinegar
½ cup Water

Directions:

Drain the liquid off of the pickles and discard.  Slice pickles into chunks on the bias to make nice finger food type size and return to the pickle jar.  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add the sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour the liquid over the pickles in the jar until covered.  Place the lid on the pickles tightly and wipe jar before putting the refrigerator.  Let the pickles refrigerate at least 24 hours (48 is better) before serving.  Must keep these refrigerated after making the pickles.

Note:               You could slice the pickles into pickle chips or long thin slices to put on sandwiches.  I don’t because they would never make it that far.  They’re just addictive and you want to just eat them straight out of the jar.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How About Some Tailgate Food Ideas

Labor Day Weekend is usually the kick-off of the college football season with the pros following close behind.  That means tailgating to many football fans before (during & after for some) their favorite teams games.  The parking lots or other designated tailgating areas are full of wonderful aromas, grill smoke and rowdy people getting pumped up for the game.

But tailgating just doesn't happen.  You and your fellow tailgating group need to do some planning to pull off a successful tailgating experience.

Remember that it's more than just food and your favorite beverages.  It helps to get everyone involved in the planning and execution of the event.  Let people handle what they are good it (or keep them away from what they are not good at).  Someone needs to make sure all the creature comforts are taken care of such as chairs, tables, sound system or TV.  I've seen some that bring floor rugs and love-seats and really big flat screens.  Don't forget all your team identification items like flags and such.

There is always one person who is great at handling all the beverages and variety is the spice of life.  Who has the best cooking equipment and the ability to get it to the location?  Some people will bring grills (gas & charcoal), turkey fryers and smokers.  Many times the one doing the smoking never sees the game because they've been there too long keeping themselves hydrated (beverage of choice).

You really don't have to bring cooking equipment if you plan your party right.  I've got a recipe in the cookbook for Oven Smoked Brisket.  You can make that ahead and wrap it up good in foil, place in a cooler and hold it for 3-4 hours at a nice warm temperature.  The same goes for pulled pork and there is a recipe here in the blog for that.  Pulled Pork

Many tailgaters go with the standard fare of burgers, hot dogs, brats, steak, ribs and the 2 items already mentioned (brisket & pulled pork).  Think out of the box once and a while and try different marinades and glazes on chicken, turkey or pork.

Another area to think about is finger foods or snacks.  It's kind of nice to change it up from game to game so look for other ideas to try.

This week I'm doing 3 recipes.  The first is a finger food for snacking and they're an easy pickle to make and tastes like candy.  Thursday is a spicy glaze (from my friend, Scott Manley) and the last one is a marinade on Friday.

I'm going to talk a little more next week on tailgating and have 3 more recipes for you to try at your next tailgate.  Have a great week.

Oh, one more thing before I go.  The blog broke 9500 hits this past week.  Please pass on the link for my blog to your friends.  I'm 6 weeks away from having written Cabana Boy Cooks for 1 1/2 years.  I'd love to break 12,000 hits before that time is up.  I "Thank You" for your help and support of my food blog.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mushroom & Swiss Stuffed Burger

Mushroom & Swiss Stuffed Burger
(4-6 servings)


Ingredients:

4 oz. can Mushrooms (stem & pieces), drained
1/2 cup Shredded Swiss Cheese
3 tbsp. A-1 Steak Sauce
2 lb. Ground Chuck
1 ½ tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
1 ½ tsp. Onion Powder
1 ½ tsp. Black Pepper
4 to 6 Hamburger Buns, grilled or toasted

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the mushrooms, cheese and steak sauce and set aside.  Take the ground chuck and form into 12 equal sized balls (8 if you are only making 4 larger patties).  Next take 6 of the balls and form into thin flat patties and place on a sheet pan.  Top each of these patties with an equal amount of the mushroom mixture.  Being sure to keep the mixture in the middle of the patties and leaving about a half inch around the outside uncovered.  Now form a ball into a thin flat patty about the same size as those on the sheet pan.  Place that patty on top of one of the topped patties and seal the edges together all the way around the patty.  Repeat the process with the remaining patties.  Sprinkle half of each of the 4 seasonings equally over the patties.  Now place the patties seasoned side down on your grill and repeat the seasoning process on the top side.  Cook the stuffed patties on each side for 4 to 5 minutes or until done.  Serve on grilled buns with your favorite condiments.

Note:               If you don’t want them so juicy on the inside, you could omit
                        the steak sauce.

Note:               For those of you that really like your cheese, the patties can always be topped with additional cheese slices of your choice before serving.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lipton & Cheddar Burger


Lipton & Cheddar Burger
(8 servings)


Ingredients:

2 lb. Ground Chuck (80/20 or 85/15)
1 envelope Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix
½ cup Water
2 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
8 Hamburger Buns, grilled or toasted
Assorted Favorite Condiments

Directions:

Combine and mix the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Then portion out 8 equal sized balls and form into patties for grilling.  Be sure to make an indentation in the middle of each patty so they don’t ball up on you as they cook.  Place a patty on a bun bottom and top with the condiments of choice before placing bun top in place.  Enjoy.

Note:               If this is too oniony for some, only use half an envelope on
                        onion mix.

Note:               I’ve also used 2 tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce instead of the water for a slightly different taste.

Note:                You could also try different cheeses in the patties.  Or even just place the cheese on top of the patty.  But I like the little change of pace using the shredded inside.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Burger Talk

Let's start with what type of meat do we want for our burgers?  Remember yesterday we talked about not limiting ourselves when it comes to everything we put our burgers in not to mention on them too.  So why would we limit the type of meat we want to cook and eat?

Tradition has the huge majority of them being made from beef.  So we will start with beef.  Most agree that you want a good meat to fat ratio because that is where the flavor comes from in the taste.  Again the majority of experts agree that using ground beef of a 70/30 to 80/20 is the range you want to be in for good burgers.  I tend towards the 80/20 blend because it still has a good taste and is a little healthier for you (my dietitians are cringing on that statement).  The fat side of the ratio also helps in the juiciness of the burger.  You can use the leaner ratio meats (85/15, 90/10 93/7) but you really need to pay attention to the cooking process.  Don't over cook them or they will end up like hockey pucks when you try to eat them.  More about the cooking process later.

I prefer to use 100% ground chuck for my burgers.  Regular ground beef, ground round or even ground sirloin will work well but I just think (and many others) there is more flavor in the chuck.  I also prefer to buy what my meat department grinds instead of the boxes of ground beef they just bring in to sell.  That way I know what they are putting in my ground beef.  There are some packaged ground beef sold that include heart or some other organs in the grind.  If in doubt, ask your butcher at your favorite store.  They can help you make the choice that meets your desires.

These days there are many other choices of meat when in comes to burgers.  Some of the more popular ones on the list include lamb, pork, chicken and turkey.  The lamb with Feta cheese and some mint make a terrific burger.  When it comes to pork you even have choices.  Some like to go with just plain ground pork while others enjoy using pork sausage of one type or another.  Italian sausage or brats (casings removed) make for great burgers too.  As I mentioned earlier with the fried egg on a burger, some will use breakfast sausage.  Especially those early morning tailgaters trying to combine all their meals into one on game day.

I tend to use more chicken than turkey for burgers because I like to grind my own chicken breasts.  Again I'm in control of what is going into my ground meat and I can go a little courser on the grind.  Chicken and turkey are very lean so you may want to add some moisture to the patties.

Buffalo is another up and coming ingredient for those burgers.  It is much leaner than beef so be careful cooking and don't over do it.

In making your burger patties there are 3 different ways to give you some variety.  Just plain ground meat patties is one but another way to go is mixing in ingredients and flavors.  An example would be the Lipton Dry Soup mix recipe where you combine the soup mix and water to the ground meat for an oniony flavored burger.  The third way is to stuff them.  This requires making two thinner patties and then placing a filling in the middle of one patty topped by the other.  Here you want to make sure the two patties are well sealed together before you cook them.  There are many ingredients you can use to stuff a burger.  I believe that cheese and mushrooms top the list though.

Forming burgers takes a little practice but it is easy to pick up.  It usually helps to moisten your hands a bit before you start.  It helps to portion out the meat into balls or piles to make sure all are about the same size and that you get the quantity you desire.  Then take one in both hands and form into a patty normally about 4 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick.  Be careful not to over work the meat as it can change the texture and make them tough.  Once you have it formed be sure to make an indentation in the middle of the patty.  This will help keep it from ballooning in the middle while it cooks.

If you watch much cooking on TV, most of them only use salt and pepper on their burgers.  I'm a little different when I grill my burgers.  If I'm just using plain ground beef, I like to season my patties on both sides with 4 items.  I use Lawry's Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder and Black Pepper.  I use them generously too.  Not to brag but I do receive many comments on how tasty my burgers are as they are being consumed.  I use those same 4 ingredients on my steaks too.  Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Lastly, with burgers no matter what type of meat you are using - DON'T OVERCOOK THEM!  Take them off the grill a little before they are done as they continue to cook and who wants to eat a hockey pucks?  Not even a hockey player.

Have a great day and remember to check out the burger recipes for Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let's Talk Burgers as the Summer is Coming to a Close.

Labor Day Weekend is coming up fast here in the USA.  That traditionally means the end of the "Summer Grilling Season".  School is back in session and in fact I know of several that started last week (way too early from my point of view).  The Tuesday after LDW is soon enough for school to start.

Labor Day Weekend is also the beginning of "Tailgate Season" for all those die-hard football fans as they support their beloved teams (and I'm one of them-just ask my wife).

With food prices on the rise, it may not be a bad idea to grill more burgers.  Some people will get tired of eating their same plain old hamburger.  So what can we do to change our plain old hamburger?

A few easy changes that you might want to try include changing out the buns and condiments.  Most of us just buy the same old 8 count hamburger bun on the shelf at every grocery store in america.  Get some variety in your life and look for other types of buns, loaves or flat breads.  Use your imagination when you cook.  There are Pretzel buns, Ciabatta rolls, hard rolls, sliced bread (heavier the texture the better) and even whole loaves sliced lengthwise in half for jumbo burgers to be shared.  Don't forget to toast those buns on the grill.  You might even want to use some type of compound butter to add another flavor level.

The same goes for condiments that you top your burgers with now.  Ketchup and yellow mustard with maybe lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion just gets boring.  Try different sauces like BBQ, steak, Buffalo or Wasabi.  There are many different types of mustard's on the shelves so try one of them instead of your regular one.  Don't forget the "Special Sauce" on Big Macs.  It's basically Thousand Island Dressing but jazzed up some.  Make your own or buy something in the specialty areas of your favorite stores.

There are different types or flavors of pickles.  Instead of just slice raw onion maybe try pickled onion or caramelized onion for a topper.  How about different types of peppers?  Maybe raw but how about roasted or again pickled.  Even sliced cucumber is great on a burger.  However, that might go better with chicken or  turkey.  And remember that Avocado slices don't just go with a Mexican burger.  They are great on any burger.  Mushrooms (any kind) are good both cooked and raw on a juicy big burger.

How about a "fried egg" on your burger?  I know some tailgaters that do brunch for early football games and combine their breakfast with their burger.  It's best to fry the eggs hard or they could get a little messy as you eat.

I even know a few that form their burgers to look like a hot dog and serve them up on hot dog or brat buns for something different.  They believe they can get more on the grill that way.

Lastly today, my wife is from Wisconsin and they are all "Cheese-heads" (I mean that in a good way as I love all kinds of cheese).  Don't limit yourself to processed yellow cheese.  There are so many different types and flavors of cheese that it is almost endless how many combinations you could come up with in assembling your burger.

So use that imagination you have and make a better burger.

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about meat for your delicious burgers and a little on technique.  There will be a burger recipe on both Thursday and Friday too.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos
(10-12 tacos)


Ingredients:

1 ½ lb. Raw Shrimp, peeled, deveined & tail off
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning
¾ cup Water
12 six inch Flour Tortillas
1 recipe Chipotle Lime Sauce
1 recipe Cilantro Rice with Orzo
1 recipe Tomato Corn Salsa

Directions:

Using around 30/40 count shrimp (cut larger ones in half if using) combine with ¾ cup water and taco seasoning package.  Refrigerate at least an hour before cooking in a large pan over medium heat.  Cook the shrimp until pink and done which should be about 10 minutes.  Place 2 or 3 tortillas in foil and warm in a 300 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  To assemble the tacos start with a tortilla shell and spread about a tbsp. of the Chipotle Lime Sauce on it.  Top the rice with some of the shrimp and then finish with the tomato corn salsa before serving.

Note:               The 3 recipes mentioned above are on my blog “Cabana Boy Cooks” at www.cabanboycooks.blogspot.com

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Tomato Corn Salsa

Tomato Corn Salsa
(3 cups plus)


Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Fresh Tomato, seeded & chopped (1/2 inch or less)
1 cup Fresh Corn, cooked & cut off cob (1-2 ears depending on size)
1 ripe Avocado, diced
½ cup Red Onion, diced
¼ cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
¼ tsp. Cumin
1 Fresh Lime, juiced

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Put into a nice serving dish, cover and refrigerate 2 to 6 hours before service.

Note:               Microwave corn (recipe in cookbook & on blog) and cool before cutting off cob.  Place corn standing up in a pie dish, large low bowl or rimmed baking sheet to catch kernels as you cut.

Note:               Place lime in microwave and run for 15 seconds.  Take lime out and roll on counter with ball of hand before cutting half.  This will give you lime juice and make it easier to squeeze out.

Note:               I didn’t make this recipe spicy because I use it with the Chipotle Lime Sauce that is spicy on Shrimp Tacos.  Both of those recipes will be on the blog by the end of the week that you see this salsa recipe.  You can add a diced seeded jalapeno pepper or two for heat if you need for your use.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cilantro Rice with Orzo

Cilantro Rice with Orzo
(6-8 servings)


Ingredients:

2 cups Minute Brown Rice
8 oz. Orzo Pasta
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced or pressed
½ cup Yellow Onion, small dice
1 Fresh Lime, zested & 2 tbsp. juice
½ cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
To taste Salt and Black Pepper

Directions:

Cook the brown rice and orzo according to package directions and keep warm.  While rice and orzo are cooking, heat the oil in a large saut√© pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion to the oil and cook for about 10 minutes or until onion has softened.  Now add the rice and orzo to the onion mixture and stir.  Mix in the lime zest, lime juice and cilantro and taste.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve.

Note:               You can always add a jalapeno pepper to put a little heat into the dish depending on how you are going to use the rice/orzo mixture.

Note:               The orzo makes another set to the process so you can skip it and increase the amount of rice.  I just like the added dimension the orzo gives the dish.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chipotle Lime Sauce

Chipotle Lime Sauce
(1 cup plus)


Ingredients:

1 cup Mayonnaise
½ (7 oz.) can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
½ Lime, juiced
¼ cup Cilantro, rough chop

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, combine the mayo, peppers and sauce, juice and cilantro.  Pulse until well blended.  You may have to scrape down sides to get it fully blended.  Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Note:               You can adjust the amount of peppers and sauce or the mayo to meet your own heat threshold.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How about Shrimp Tacos for Dinner

First, I'd better admit that "I Love Shrimp" and almost in any way it is done.  So I've wanted to make a recipe for "Shrimp Tacos" for some time.

I've tried them at various restaurants over the years and have found several that I really liked.  So I've taken some of the best aspects of different restaurant recipes and tried to incorporate them into my recipe for the tacos.

In doing this I also didn't want to make it difficult for a new or inexperienced person in the kitchen.  However, there are 3 recipes to make before you can put together the "Shrimp Taco."  Each of the recipes are easy to make and can be modified to personal taste.  The actual assembly of the taco is a 4th recipe.

So this week on Cabana Boy Cooks there will be 4 recipes.  Wednesday will start with the first sub-recipe.  Thursday and Friday will offer the next 2 sub-recipes with the actual "Shrimp Tacos" recipe on Saturday.

All 3 of the sub-recipes can be used for other proposes.  The 3 recipes are Chipotle Lime Sauce, Cilantro Rice with Orzo and Tomato Corn Salsa.

Enjoy the week and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns for Cabana Boy Cooks.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Panzanella
(Italian Bread Salad)
(4 servings)


Ingredients:

6 cups Rustic Bread (your choice), cut into no bigger than 1 inch cubes
1/8 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 very large Fresh Tomatoes, seeded and cut into no bigger than 1 inch cubes
½ tsp. Salt
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
 ½ tsp. Black Pepper
1 large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small Red Onion, medium chop
¼ cup Fresh Basil, chopped
To taste Salt and Black Pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the 1/8 cup oil and spread out on a sheet pan.  Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes being sure to stir halfway through the time.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Using the same large bowl, toss the tomatoes and salt together than place in strainer and let drip back into the large bowl for about 15 minutes.  When the time is up on tomatoes set them aside, whisk the oil, vinegar and tomato juices together in the large bowl.  Now add the cooled bread cubes and toss.  Let this stand for 10 minutes or so occasionally re-tossing.  Add the tomato, cucumber, onion and basil to bowl and toss again.  Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper before serving.

Note:               I like red onion but you could use a large shallot instead.  The salad doesn’t call for any cheese but some nice fresh grated cheese could add another dimension.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Caprese Salad (Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil)

Caprese Salad
(Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil)
(4 servings)


Ingredients:

2 large Fresh Tomatoes
8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
8 leaves Fresh Basil
2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
To taste Salt & Black Pepper

Directions:

Core and chop tomatoes into ½ inch pieces and place in a large bowl.  Cube the cheese into ½ inch pieces and add to the tomatoes.  Place the basil leaves on top each other laid out and then roll them up like a cigarette.  Cut the basil into thin slices (called Chiffonade) and add to tomato cheese mixture.  Whisk together the vinegar and oil then add to bowl and toss well.  Taste and season the salad with salt and pepper just before serving.

Note:               You can also just slice the tomatoes and cheese into ¼ to ½ inch slices.  Then alternate them on a platter before sprinkling with the basil.  Salt and pepper the platter before drizzling with the vinegar/oil mixture.

Note:               If you want to be real fancy and serve as individual salads, place the slices stacked on top of each other.  Start with a tomato slice, a little salt & pepper, drizzle of vinegar/oil mixture and then a slice of cheese.  Repeat several times using a tomato about the size of the cheese slice.  Sprinkle with the basil and top with some more of the vinegar/oil mixture and serve.

Note:               I will, on occasion, just use the balsamic vinegar and skip the olive oil.  Many others will just use the olive oil.  It’s up to you and your taste.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BLT Panini

BLT Panini
(2 servings)


Ingredients:

4 slices Bread (your choice-see note)
3 tbsp. Mayonnaise
1 very large Heirloom Tomato (or your favorite), sliced ½ inch thick
6-12 slices Cooked Thick Smoked Bacon (depends on how much you like bacon)
¼ head Iceberg Lettuce, large pieces separated

Directions:

Spread the mayonnaise over one side of each piece of bread.  Top two of the bread slices equally with the cooked bacon.  Place the tomato slices on top of the bacon, again equally.  Layer the lettuce over the tomatoes and finally top with other two slices of bread, mayo side down.  Place the assembled sandwiches on the bottom ribbed grill plate of a Panini grill that has been pre-heated to high.  Close the top lid of press on sandwiches and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until bread has browned nicely.  Remove sandwiches from press, slice in half diagonally and serve.

Note:               I like using hearty potato bread for my BLTs but pick something interesting for favor.  Panera’s Bread makes great 3-cheese bread that would be wonderful for a BLT.

Note:               If you like cheese, try using a good sharp cheddar on this sandwich.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fresh Tomatoes are in Season

First, let me thank everyone that helped me break the 9,000 hits mark on this blog.  The Americans and Russians were the biggest help, but again thanks to all.

One other reminder as my publisher reminded me.  My cookbook is now available as an e-book to download at my website, Barry Beacom.  They are just $9.99 US dollars

In the United States, Tomatoes are popping up everywhere.  We're in the height of the season and there is nothing better than fresh tomatoes from the garden.  Starting sometime in July and going through August, my favorite dinnertime meal is a good BLT (Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato) sandwich with corn on the cob.  The two just make a great paring in my mind.

But when tomatoes are plentiful, more than BLTs come to mind.  There are so many recipes that fresh picked tomatoes improve this time of year over store bought ones during the winter.

One of the usual late summer tasks I will miss this summer is making Salsa with my friend, Howard.  Because we moved 6 1/2 hours north in June, Howard will be doing it on his own this summer.  Last summer we made about 30 gallons before a storm wiped out 1/2 our tomato crop.  We were shooting for 50 gallons last summer.  I believe Howard planned more tomatoes this summer and so I feel for him as he works alone.

Did I mention that the Salsa we made is the best ever?  The recipe for this Salsa is in my cookbook, More Than Your First Cookbook.  It is called "Candee's Canned Salsa" and it is a slightly sweet salsa and you can adjust the kick.

In the cookbook, the salsa recipe shows how to "Can" it.  However, I have tried it and the recipe works well frozen too.  The canning process requires boiling jars filled with the salsa in a water bath.  Many of you may not have the equipment, so that is why I tried freezing it.  You cut the recipe in half or smaller and just refrigerate it too.  Once you try it, the salsa won't last long in the refrigerator.

If you have more than you can eat before they go bad, freeze them.  All you have to do is wash, core and cut into quarters before putting them in a zip-lock freezer bag of an appropriate size.  Squeeze the excess air out of the bag and lay them flat in the freezer.  When you thaw the bags there will be a fair amount of liquid.  You can drain it off or use leave it depending on how you plan to use the tomatoes.  The skins come off easy after they are thawed if you want to remove them.

In case you didn't know, the tomato is actually a fruit although everyone treats it as a vegetable.  The tomato is also very good for you.  Dietitians push it for help in controlling cholesterol and weight lost.  It is high in fiber, minerals and vitamins plus antioxidants.  Three of the big ones are vitamins A and C and potassium.

Tomatoes come in different sizes, shapes and colors.  So be adventurous and try them all.  I've never found a bad tasting tomato.  As I stated earlier, tomorrow is a recipe for a BLT Panini.  Thursday is a Caprese Salad that uses tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.  On Friday, I have a recipe for Panzanella which is a tomato and bread salad.
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And for all of you Italian and Mediterranean folks, tomatoes didn't originate in Europe.  The Spanish explorers brought them back from Central America where the Aztecs first cultivated the tomato.  Have a good time with your tomatoes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan
(4-6 servings)


Ingredients:

1 large (4 ½” X 9”), ½ inch slices lengthwise (6 slices)
3 large Fresh Eggs, beaten
2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
25 oz. jar Pasta Sauce (your favorite)
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Place a sheet pan/baking sheet in the oven on the middle shelf.  Turn oven on to 375 degrees and let pre-heat.  While oven is heating, place the beaten eggs and bread crumbs into separate flat dishes large enough to hold one of the eggplant slices.  Place a slice into the eggs, coat both sides and let drip a little before placing in the bread crumbs.  Pat both sides of eggplant in bread crumbs to coat and place to the side.  Repeat until all eggplant is coated.  Open the oven and pour the olive oil onto the sheet pan making sure it coats the whole bottom.  Place the eggplant slices on the sheet pan and close oven door.  Bake for 15 minutes then turn them over and continue another 10 minutes.  Remove sheet pan with eggplant from oven and turn the oven to 425 degrees.  Using a 9x13 baking dish, place about ¼ of pasta sauce on bottom and coat all of it.  Next place 3 slices of eggplant on sauce (you may have to alternate the top of eggplant on middle slice to fit).  Top the eggplant with ½ of remaining pasta sauce, then ½ of both cheeses.  Repeat the eggplant (so it matches up with slices below), sauce and cheese layers and place dish in the oven.  Bake the casserole for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned a little.  Let it rest for 10 minutes and then slice into 4 or 6 portions and serve.

Note:               To make this a lacto-ovo vegetarian dish, use a pasta
                        sauce that is meatless.

Note:               To make this dish meaty, brown some ground beef or Italian sausage and crumble it over the eggplant before adding the pasta sauce to that layer.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Harvest Grains Salad

Harvest Grains Salad
(6-8 servings)


Ingredients:

8 oz. (1/2 package) Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, cooked
1 cup Cucumber, peeled, seeded if large and ½ inch dice
1 cup Fresh Tomatoes, seeded and ½ inch dice
1 cup Red Onion, diced
1 cup Green Pepper, ½ inch dice
1 ear Fresh Corn, cooked and cut off cob
½ package (5 oz. size) Feta Cheese
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Fresh Lime, zested and juiced
2 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp. Dry Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper

Directions:

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk together the oil, lime zest and juice, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  When well combined add the dressing to the grain mixture, incorporate, taste and adjust seasoning if needed and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before servings.  Toss again just before service.

Note:               I picked these fresh ingredients because they were in season coming out of the garden.  You can switch them around based on what is available in and out of season.

Note:               I used lime because I like them and it gives you a nice change from a lemon.  You can use a lemon if it suits you better.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eggplant, Have You Ever Tried It?

Eggplant, that purple oblong thing we've all seen in the produce section of the super market. What is it and what do you do with it?

First, know that it is good for you. Second, it is not that hard to work with when cooking. Eggplant is part of the nightshade family of vegetables. That family includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes to name a few. In grows similar to tomato plants and comes in many varieties. The most common in the United States is the purple pear shaped variety.

Eggplant is considered to have a pleasantly bitter taste with a spongy texture. It can be used in recipes in a variety of ways usually as a complementary ingredient to the main one. Nutritionally it is high in fiber and considered a good brain food.

In picking out the best one to buy, look for good bright shiny color and smooth skin. You want one that does not have bruises, cuts or scars. Similar to buying watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size. To pick a ripe one press a finger or thumb against the skin and let up. If the skin bounces back it is ripe and if it retains it indentation it is not. Handle them carefully as they can spoil quickly if damaged. Don't cut them until it is time to be used. Store them in the refrigerator, preferably in a drawer depending on size.

Eggplant is a good ingredient for those people that follow some form of vegetarianism. It works well in place of lasagna noodles or the meat in an eggplant lasagna for example. In my cookbook, More Than Your First Cookbook, I have a recipe that uses eggplant in a side dish, Kevin's Orzo & Eggplant. This Friday's recipe is for Eggplant Parmesan. Both are easy tasty dishes that you should occasionally cook.

One of the reason I bring up eggplant this week is because garden produce is coming to its peak in August and heading into the fall. Eggplant's best time is August through November so give it a try.

Remember, I'm just trying to expand your culinary adventure in cooking. Eggplant is just one way. As the blog continues over time, there will be other ingredients I will try to expose to your taste buds. Enjoy!