Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Giambotta (Vegetable Stew) – My Childhood Summers in a Bowl

The night before I left New York, my mother and I were invited to my Aunt Joyce’s for dinner. When I heard she was making “Cha-bought,” I knew I had to bring my camcorder to film this unusual and delicious dish. As a child, I probably had this for lunch 3 times a week during the summer at my grandparents. Everyone (at least all the Italian-American families) had backyard vegetable gardens; so fresh green beans, zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, and herbs were always plentiful.

This simple vegetable stew was pronounced “Cha-bought” by my grandparents. I’ve always wondered what it meant, or what the actual Italian name was. Thanks to Scott from Boston I was informed that the dish I had grow-up on was really called "Giambotta." Scott says this translates to "everything/a mess," which makes a lot of sense due to the array of vegetables that can and were used in this stew. He said his mother dropped the “a” from the end, and called it "Giambott.” So, to make a long story even longer, what I called “cha-bought” was actually a mispronunciation, of a mispronunciation.

Now, what made this dish so unusual was that it was made with hot dogs! That’s right, an ancient Italian vegetable stew made with 100% pure American hot dogs. Why? Here’s my theory. This dish was originally made either with all vegetables, or with the addition of Italian sausage. Growing up, I do remember this being made with sweet Italian sausage occasionally, but most of the time it was hot dogs. I believe that hot dogs were simply the least expensive sausage available, and so my grandparents, needing to feed many mouths without many dollars, chose this lower cost alternative. The strange thing is, it really works! It tastes wonderful no matter what sausage you chose, and since I grew up on it I think I actually prefer hot dogs, even to this day.

For me, there is no better mid-summer meal than a large bowl of steaming Giambotta and a couple slices of Italian bread. Of course, that’s not all we ate that night. Aunt Joyce and her friend Steve also made grilled sweet corn, and a beautiful fresh mozzarella tomato salad (all pictured above). It was a great meal, and a great way to end my visit to New York, and to re-connect to my culinary roots. Enjoy!

4 oz sweet Italian sausage (optional)
1/2 onion sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbl olive oil
Slowly sauté above ingredients on low heat until onions and garlic turn translucent (do not brown garlic)

Then add (as seen in the video)
about 36 oz. tomato puree (any combination of whole peeled tomatoes, plain tomato sauce, or canned tomato puree) ERROR ALERT: IN THE CLIP I SAID "JUST OVER 2 QUARTS" BUT I MEANT ONE QUART...OOPS
3-4 zuchinni
3-4 russet potatoes
2 bell peppers
1/2 pound green beans (*blanched)
2 pounds hot dogs (or any sausage)
1/2 bunch fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

*I’ve read that adding raw green beans to a tomato sauce can cause the beans to “toughen” as the acid in the sauce reacts with the fiber in the beans. So it may be better to blanch the beans for a few minutes before adding to the sauce. Having said all that, I have added them raw and they are OK, but I do think the texture is better if they are blanched first… someone get me Alton Brown’s phone number!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Chef John verses the Garbage Plate

Before I left New York, as promised, I experienced the legendary Garbage Plate. My biggest fear with this post is that someone visiting my blog for the first time, possibly during their lunch break, sees the photo on the left, loses said lunch, and never returns.

Anyway, that’s just a chance I’ll have to take. The first thing I’d like to say about the Garbage Plate is that it actually tasted way better than it looked. I know what you’re thinking… how could it not? The culinary logic behind the dish is pretty solid. If you like pasta salad, homefries, hot dogs, and chili, then you certainly will enjoy them in huge quantities all piled on top of each other.

I didn’t make it to the home of the original Garbage Plate, Nick Tahou’s in Rochester. I decided to try mine at a trusted lunch spot in Canadaigua, called Charlie Riedel’s. I have been coming to Charlie’s for years. They serve some of the best burgers around, and their fish sandwich (a huge, perfectly fried piece of haddock on a soft roll), is the best I’ve had anywhere. But, in all my visits to Charlie’s I had never tried a Garbage Plate. By the way, as you’ll see and hear in the video clip, they don’t call it a Garbage Plate.

I was going to give you the entire history of the Garbage Plate here, but then I found an old FoodTV clip on the subject, so I’m posting that below mine. There’s not much else to say, except that I hope you enjoy the clip. I’d like to thank the staff at Charlie’s, which could not have been nicer. Thanks Barb, Jessie, Andy and Noah! There was also another girl working the counter, but I never got her name. So, whoever you were, thanks to you too. Also, to Scott the Manager (who wasn’t there that day), your loyal staff did charge me full price for the plate. They were not about to be bought merely for the promise of Internet fame. Enjoy!

This clip from FoodTV explains the history behind this bizarre dish

This is What Happened to the Other Half of the Pie Dough

It was rolled out and filled with a pint of fresh blueberries. They were mixed with just the right amounts of sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. The dough was folded up and around, covering some berries, while leaving others exposed to be dotted with small pieces of butter. A light sprinkling of sugar rained down, and in the oven it went. After being baked golden, in a 33 cent pie tin, it was served with vanilla ice cream and my family. It was almost transferred to a pretty plate to be photographed, but that just didn’t seem right. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chicken D’Arduini – Italian Home Cooking at its Best!

As promised, here is the chicken dish that my Uncle Bill served with the homemade fettuccine you saw him make a few days ago. This unbelievably flavorful recipe is a great example of the difference between home cooking and the way things are done in the professional kitchen.

If I were to watch this video recipe clip, the first thing I would have wondered was why weren’t the chicken pieces browned first before being braised in the wine. This would have been my former professional chef brain talking. In the restaurant we always brown off the chicken to give it a bit more color. But, at home, with a recipe this jam-packed with flavor, why bother? It would have taken an extra half hour to brown all those legs and thighs and we had wine to drink and stories to tell. So, in true home cooking style we just added the raw chicken to that amazing oil, garlic and anchovy base (as you’ll soon see) and went from there. If you want a darker brown sauce and chicken, then by all means brown off the pieces first. We had better things to do.

A few tips to keep in mind as you watch the recipe. Be sure NOT to brown the garlic. It was just simmered on low with the anchovies and olive oil for a few minutes before the chicken was added. As soon as the chicken and wine are added, and the pan is covered, there is no danger of the garlic burning. But, until those other ingredients go in, be careful! You should watch this clip a few times, to really see what happened. The heat was adjusted several times, and the wine went in at the beginning and the end. Basically the entire cooking time is about 45 minutes, half covered, half uncovered. At the end, once the chicken is starting to come off the bone, you are just reducing the sauce into a wonderfully sticky glaze.

Uncle Bill threw in some olives and mushrooms near the end, but you could just as easily put in peppers, artichoke hearts, etc. This is a very easy recipe to tailor to you own tastes. The basic foundation is the chicken, wine, vinegar, garlic and anchovies. After that anything goes. And, because someone will ask, no, you can’t use chicken breasts instead…this is strictly dark meat territory. Enjoy!

8 chicken thighs (bone-in, but skinned)
8 chicken legs
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 tbl dried rosemary
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 oz anchovy fillets
1/2 plus 1/3 cup red wine
1/4 cup vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

San Francisco, Here I Come

I'll be leaving New York for San Francisco this evening, but won’t be getting in until early Thursday AM. So I probably will not be posting again until Friday at the earliest. But, I do have some very cool stuff to share. Yes, I did have a Garbage Plate! I felt just like Michael Moore, going behind the scenes with my hand held camera to capture this legendary dish. How was it? You’ll have to stay tuned for that exciting video exposé.

You’ll also get to see Uncle Bill’s braised chicken recipe I already teased, as well as a video recipe my Aunt Joyce did of my all-time favorite summertime vegetable recipe that’s made with…(are you sitting down?)...hot dogs! It’s pronounced “Cha-bought,” but I don’t know the actual spelling since it’s another example of a family name that is an Americanized mispronunciation of an actual Italian term. I believe it comes from some Italian slang or term for the word “mixture.” If any of my Italian viewers can help with this culinary mystery after seeing that clip, please do contact me, or leave a comment.

Thanks to everyone for your comments and emails about my Mom. She is recuperating slowly, but surely, and appreciated all the kind thoughts. Also, thanks for your patience with my inability to post as regularly as usual. As I said, I should be back to regular production in a few days. Ironically, site traffic has been increasing steadily while I’ve been here in NY, and I want to welcome all the new visitors to this blog. As they say, “You aint seen nothing yet.”

Today’s clip is dedicated to anyone that’s never been to San Francisco. It’s a montage of some of the City’s most beautiful scenes set to Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” I try to never take for granted that I’m lucky enough to live in America’s most beautiful city. If you ever get a chance to visit, I’m sure you will agree. But, be very careful, you may not go back. I came to San Francisco for a 3 month visit, 24 years ago!

This clip was a promotional video made by the Union Bank of San Francisco, and features a surreal interpretive dance by some hula dancers. Why are Hula dancers interpreting a Tony Bennett song about the City to promote a bank? I have no idea, except to say, “That’s San Francisco for you.” Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

“Homemades” – Making Pasta with Uncle Bill

If you’ve been watching my video recipes for a while you have probably heard me mention my Uncle Bill more than once. Several of the Italian dishes on the site are variations (or exact copies) of his recipes I enjoyed growing up. So, before I left New York I wanted to try and capture Uncle Bill in action. This homemade fettuccine was always called “homemades” around the house, and so I thought I would post this recipe with it’s proper family name.

I enjoyed this very basic, but delicious pasta recipe, which was made into either spaghetti or fettuccine every Christmas when Uncle Bill would cook an amazing feast for the family. There was always this homemade pasta (I mean “homemades”), as well as sauce, chicken and herbs, bracciole, salads, and countless other Italian delicacies (not to mention my Aunt Angela’s amazing pies).

I don’t have much time this morning, but I will add more to this post later today, including the ingredient list. Like I already said, this is a simple recipe that just uses regular AP flour. You can, of course, use a mixture of semolina flour like many pasta recipes suggest. But, this recipe is very user friendly, and if you’ve never made your own pasta before, this would be a good place to start. By the way, those pasta machines are surprisingly affordable at your local mega-store or Bed Bath and Beyond-type home-goods places. Get one! The white motor you’ll see attached to the pasta roller in the clip is also sold at the same stores, and made to fit almost any model pasta machine. It does make things a little faster, but I kind of missed hand-cranking the handle on the machine.

What did we do with this homemade fettuccine? You’ll have to check back later for the full story. Enjoy and stay tuned!

2 1/4 to 2 1/3 cup AP flour (you can always add flour, but not take it out, so even though we started with 2 1/3 cups, it may be better to start with 2 1/4 and then add a bit more latter if it seems too sticky.
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbl olive oil
1/3 cup water

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is “The Simpsons” the most delicious television show ever?

Yes, it is. As most of you know the Simpsons movie is premiering next week. If you don’t know, you don’t have a television, since the trailers have been running non-stop for 3 months. I am a huge Simpsons fan, and I can’t think of another television show that has discussed, parodied (D’oh! I should have said “skewered,” then I could have said, “both literally and figuratively”), and celebrated food as much as The Simpsons. I don’t think anyone keeps statistics about these things, but there must be more food references per minute of air time on this show than another other show ever produced. After an exhaustive 20 minute search of YouTube, I found a few of my favorite foodie moments. So, grab a doughnut and enjoy!

Homer really likes bacon (and so do I).

If a Chef only got to use one animal for the rest of their career which would they choose? It’s not even close.

Since it is Sunday, I thought I should post one clip devoted to the power of prayer.

Sorry Takeru Kobayashi, but competitive eating is NOT a sport. But, in this clip it sure is funny.

In case you don’t know how to pronounce “Chowder.”

The greatest theme restaurant parody ever!

My sister Valerie is a cop, so this is my favorite Simpsons food clip of all time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Think Therefore I Am… a Winner of a Blogging Award!

I want to thank Nessa (pictured below) for naming me as a recipient of the Thinking Blogger Award! She gave me this award a while ago, but I am just now getting around to making the announcement. You guys know how modest I am. Part of this great honor is that I must now give this award to five other blogs. It was almost impossible to choose only five from all the great blogs I visit and link to. But, after careful thought, and several coin-flips, I hereby bestow this Thinking Blogger Award to the following blogs:

Congratulations, and now you have to choose 5 winners.
Good luck with that!

Quick Personal Update:
My Mom’s surgery went well, and she sends along her thanks to all the well wishers and Key Lime commentators. I will be returning to San Francisco on July 26th and getting back to regular production. Finally, no I haven’t had a Garbage Plate yet, but will. I’ve been trying to get a hold of a portable defibrillator before I dig in.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Homemade Mayonnaise - The Recipe Video the Big Mayo Companies Don’t Want You to See!

A fan of the blog just wrote me asking for a mayonnaise recipe. I could have sworn I posted this clip a while back, but I guess not. It’s been on YouTube, but apparently never made its way over here. Or maybe I did post it and the IT guys at Hellmann's hacked into the system and deleted it from this blog for fear of its effect on their sales! I mean can you imagine if everyone knew how easy it was to make their own mayo? The whole mayonnaise industry would crumble. Of course, I have to give the standard “this is an old clip” disclaimer/warning; old equipment, bad sound, bad lighting, bad jokes, and some really bad singing.

Homemade Mayo is one of those indescribable culinary pleasures. If you have a stick-style or regular blender, you CAN make your own mayo! It’s so much cheaper, and way more delicious. You also get to decide what kind of oil you want, a nice fruity olive oil, or a lighter vegetable oil, or your own secret custom mix. Give this a try, it’s fun and you can taste something so few Americans ever taste…fresh, creamy, homemade mayo!

2 egg yolks
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
1 tbl white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil

Monday, July 16, 2007

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns – Sorry Pancetta, we’ve met someone else

Yes, another "I'm still in New York" re-run, but as soon as I'm done with this post I'm going to finish editing a very nice Key Lime Pie recipe that my Mom made today. It's an old family tradition, 2 days before any major shoulder surgery the patient makes pie for good luck. This pie will go perfectly with the Prawn recipe below. This was originally posted here way back in February, so keep in mind none of the new A/V equipment was around then. It's really easy, and can be done on the stove top or on a grill. Enjoy!

One of my favorite summer time food moments is that first perfectly sweet, ripe and juicy melon, wrapped with a thin slice of Prosciutto. This recipe is inspired by that same combination, only this time the cold sweet melon is being replaced by hot sweet prawns.

I’ve seen this dish on many menus, but the prawns are usually wrapped with Pancetta (Italian bacon). I find that Prosciutto works so much better since it cooks, and crisps up faster, and allows for us to not over cook the prawn. The Pancetta is usually thicker and fattier and by the time it’s cooked through the prawns are overcooked, and have suffered severe “shrinkage.”

Please note in the clip I don’t salt the prawns before wrapping. When we pan sear the skewered prawns, the salty Prosciutto is all the seasoning we need. Also, watch for a trick I’ve used several times before, using a smoked paprika to give the final product a “char-grilled” character.

As far as seasoning, I went very minimalist this time. Other additions to this recipe can include garlic, hot peppers, and fresh herbs like basil or tarragon. I love serving this on “
beans and greens” (pictured in photo above) which is a side dish I learned from my Uncle Bill and can be seen here!

1 pound prawns, peeled and de-veined
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbl orange or tangerine zest
2 tbl olive oil
8 thin slices of Prosciutto

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Soup

Whenever I get to travel back east in the summer I’m reminded how lucky we San Franciscans are to enjoy such amazingly pleasant weather. We just don’t get many of those hot and humid days that I’ve heard referred to as “the air you wear.” Our cool, grey city, with is natural air conditioning, always welcomes you with a breath of fresh air. While not as foggy a city as its reputation would have one believe, we do get a good layer of fog, especially as the sun goes down in the summer. Most of the time, however, we are treated to mild temperatures and clear blue skies. And that’s why the picture of the beautiful, puffy cloud in today’s post (the other reason for the cloud photo will be explained shortly). This photo was taken near my Mom’s home in Clifton Springs. It is very rare to see such big, tall, shapely clouds like this in San Francisco. Our skies come in three basic styles; blue and completely cloudless, blue with thin little wisps of clouds, or the thin layer of grey fog I already mentioned. That’s pretty much it. In fact, the first time I brought my wife Michele back to meet the parents; she noticed (and fell in love with) these impressive looking clouds right away.

Anyway, today’s video is a re-run of my wonton soup recipe that I posted back in March. One translation of “wonton” means “swallowing clouds” and has always been one of my favorite all-time food translations (and properly made a very accurate one). I’m also having the family over today and wonton soup is on the menu! I’ll be doing it with ground turkey instead of the pork you’ll see in the recipe clip. I’ll just post the video below, but if you click on this link you can go to the original post to get the ingredients and full article. Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Good Morning America!

How my big break on ABC’s morning show turned into tips for applying mascara!

I received an email from ABC’s Good Morning America asking permission to use my Tandoori Chicken clip for a feature they were doing on YouTube’s “How to” channel on Thursday. Wow, I was so excited! This was going to be my big break. I called the contact person at ABC and told her they had permission to use whatever they wanted. She said she had seen the site and really liked it and thanked me for my cooperation.

Well, I was driving my mom to an appointment, so I wasn’t able to see it live, but I had friends and relatives taping it for me. This was going to be great!! I rushed home to watch the segment, which was also posted on the GMA website. Needless to say I wasn’t exactly the star of the show. First, George Stephanopoulos introduced the segment as “Beauty Secrets on YouTube.” Hmmm, that’s not a good start. Then, Deborah Roberts, who did the feature, went on to show all these great beauty tip channels on YT. Hey, where’s Foodwishes??

Finally, near the end of the segment, George asked her about other helpful info available on the site. She said that there were also cooking tips, among other things…OK, here we go!! This must be where they’re going to talk about my recipes, and channel, and amazing food blog. Ahhh, not exactly. They basically showed a 2 second, long distance shot of the page on YT where my Tandoori Chicken was the featured recipe. And just like that it was over. Oh well, at least I saw a great tip on thickening my eye lashes.

If you want to watch the clip, here is the link. I shall be contacting them soon asking (begging) for a feature on the “Chefs of YouTube.” All kidding aside, I appreciate them showing my recipe, if only for a few seconds, and hopefully they will listen to my pitch for an in-depth foodie feature. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stuffed and Rolled Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Pan Jus

I've recently received several emails requesting stuffed and rolled meat recipes. Since I'm still getting set up here at my moms (and recovering from that cheeseburger) I thought I would re-post this dish that ran way back in February.

Sometimes you just have to show off. This is one of my many recipes that looks very impressive to your dinner guests, but in fact is quite simple and easy to prepare. The cut we’re using here is pork “tenderloin” NOT a pork “loin.” This is the “filet mignon” of the pork. Yes, it is more expensive, but it’s all edible, and as you’ll see, it’s a very user friendly cut of meat. They are usually sold two to a package and weigh just over a pound each. If you’re not sure ask the butcher.

Think of this demo as an idea generator, not a specific recipe. Pay attention to how the tenderloin is split and stuffed, rolled and tied, but as you watch you should be thinking of ways to customize this dish to your tastes. I’m using a very standard bread crumb stuffing with garlic, fresh herbs, and dried currants.
By the way, I forgot to mention in the clip, when you sear the rolled and tied pork in the pan, place the "seam" side down first to seal this part first.

My next post will cover the Dijon pan sauce I served with this pork, and soon I’ll also demo the cauliflower mash that I used as the side dish. Enjoy!

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pound)
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tbl olive oil
pinch of cayenne
4 tbl dried currants

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Seven Eleven Sixty Three - Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, today I turned 44. I want to thank all of you for your kind words and birthday wishes. I made it safely to my mothers after a lovely red-eye flight that included 2 weather delays and one 3 hour lay-over. It only took 12 hours, and I savored every cramped minute. Flying these days really is a joy. I can't sleep on long, late night flights. Not because I don't want to, but because for some reason I’m always seated next to the one person on the entire plane that’s going to keep the reading light on, and finish that book they bought at the airport bookstore right before they got on the plane. I almost said, “Excuse me, it’s my birthday, would you mind turning off the light?” but since we were headed for JFK in NYC I didn’t want to take the chance that I was speaking to a native New Yorker who would have said something like, “#!%!# you and you’re birthday!”

Anyway, my mom took me out for a quick birthday lunch and now I’m going to bed. Pictured here is the giant 12 ounce cheeseburger that came on a crispy pile of fries. You’ve probably noticed by the clips lately that I’ve been cooking and eating a lot healthier. So this was quite a shock to my system; a delicious, juicy, cheesy shock. But, it was my birthday after all, and not to mention this was one of the lighter items on the menu! Stay tuned

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tandoori Chicken – The Busy (Lazy?) American Version

Tandoori chicken gets is name from the clay oven it is traditionally cooked in, the Tandoor. The chicken is marinated in yogurt and an incredibly complex mix of spices, and then roasted in the extremely hot tandoor oven. The results are one of the world’s great culinary experiences.

Indian chefs spend hours carefully preparing their spices for this dish. Most make their own version of a “Garam Masala,” which translates to “hot spice.” There are literally thousands of variations, but the most common ingredients are; cumin, coriander, green cardamom seed and/or black cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace, dried hot chili peppers, sesame, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and turmeric.

To do this properly, the chefs buy whole seeds and pods of the various spices, carefully toast and/or roast them, and then grind them right before they're used. Some even grind them by hand using a mortar and pestle. Of course, we busy American cooks don’t have time for all that (or so we claim), but luckily we can buy pre-mixed Tandoori spice. Look for the words “Tandoori Spice” and/or “Garam Masala,” or as my package was labeled, “Tandoori Masala.”

These spice mixes are available at the major supermarkets (or specialty food stores, if you’re lucky enough to live near a large city), but can really vary in quality. Please make sure you check the label carefully, and that it contains most, if not all, of the spices listed above. Some of the cheaper, lower-quality versions are nothing more than hot pepper and turmeric.

Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a Tandoor clay oven sitting in the back yard. The good old Weber charcoal grill will work just fine, as you’ll see in today’s video recipe clip. By the way, this can be done using whole, cut-up chicken on the bone, but for speed and lower-fat content, I chose to use boneless, skinless thighs. Enjoy!

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 tbl plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbl tandoori spice mix
1/2 lime, juiced
extra salt and hot pepper to taste

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What did people watch before FoodTV?

I found this clip on YouTube this week and thought it would give some of you a nice, nostalgic chuckle. By the way, I was one of those guys that took Home Economics in high school instead of Shop class. It wasn’t really because I wanted to be a cook at that point; it was more a choice between making hot chocolate chip cookies, or bird feeders and ash trays. Also, I was 15 at the time, and the Home-Ec class had 15 girls and 3 guys, while the Shop class had 15 guys and 3 girls. You do the math.

Anyway, we watched many of these “instructional films” made in the fifties (actually this one was made in 1949). I always found them strangely mesmerizing in a slightly disturbing, hypnotic sort of way. It was probably all the subliminal anti-communist messages they spliced in between the frames. Enjoy!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Herb Braised Artichokes - All rise, the "Court Bouillon" is now in session

I've had a few requests for an artichoke demo, so I thought I would show you one of my favorite ways to cook them. This is a variation of an old recipe my Uncle Bill showed me years ago. He uses dried herbs in his, but I had an oregano plant that needed a serious pruning and so I went with the fresh stuff. This method is sort of a cross between the two most popular ways to do artichokes; steaming or boiling, which is why I called it braised. As you'll see, I basically simmer the artichoke in a small amount of liquid so they are actually more like steamed artichokes than boiled ones (which can dilute the flavor somewhat).

As far as official culinary terminology goes, the liquid I'm using is referred to as a "Court Bouillon." This is simply a flavorful cooking liquid made of water, salt, and some type of acid (usually vinegar or wine). It is traditionally used to poach shellfish and other seafood, but works great for artichokes.

The video recipe is very straight forward, so no need for any long-winded post today. Not to mention it's Friday! I enjoyed my artichokes with a simple squeeze of lemon, but below you will see links to several video recipes I've already posted that would work great as a dip for this. Enjoy!

2 large globe artichokes
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 bunch fresh oregano, or 2 tbl dried (or any other herb combo you like)
1 tbl salt
black pepper to taste

*Serve with fresh lemon or one of the video recipes linked below:
Tarragon Aioli
Blood Orange Tapenade

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cauliflower Spaghetti “Aglio Olio” - Hello Old Friend

Well, I thought I had found them all, but this clip that I posted on YouTube a long time ago never made it to this blog. So, while some of you may have watched it there, here is the official article and recipe ingredient list. As you watch, it will be obvious this was done long before the new equipment and it sure looks and sounds like it. I mean I didn’t even wear a Chef jacket back then! But, it really is a great (and easy) recipe and I hope you give it a try.

In my opinion, one of life’s simple pleasures is the classic spaghetti “aglio olio.” Pasta tossed with lots of garlic, oil, and maybe some butter and cheese. For those of us that grew up in Italian-American homes, this might have been the first pasta dish we ever tasted. My mother did a variation on this comfort classic by adding chopped cauliflower which as a youngster I always enjoyed. Like most kids I hated cauliflower in any other form, but for some reason when it was in spaghetti “aglio olio” it was delicious! One health tip: if you want to lower the calories in this dish, you can cut down the oil and butter a bit and add more pasta water to lighten the recipe. Having said that, don’t do it.

For whatever reason, as an adult I kind of forgot about this dish. For me, the cauliflower area of the produce section is certainly not a destination by any means. During a phone call with mom she told me she couldn’t talk any longer as she was just about to drain some pasta for this dish. It brought back so many happy food memories that I ran out and got some cauliflower and went to work. It had probably been 7 or 8 years since I had made this pasta dish and I savored every bite. It was like running into a dear old friend you haven’t seen for a very long time. Enjoy!

1 large head of cauliflower
1 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 stick butter
6 cloves crushed garlic
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped basil and/or Italian parsley

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Have a Happy 4th of July!

I want to wish you all a fun and safe 4th of July. I know, it’s in the middle of the week this year, and you’re bitter you couldn’t figure out how to get Thursday and Friday off also. The mistake was putting the specific date in the name of the holiday. That’s never a good idea; just ask any Cinco de Mayo event planner. I’ve always thought “Independence Day” would have given us a lot more flexibility in regards to scheduling. Anyway, enjoy the day off and remember; beer and firecrackers don’t mix! The beer makes them all soggy and they don’t explode. So, here’s to short pants, long fuses, and “Stars and Stripes Forever” played by four girls, in matching shirts, on the Trombone. Since there are probably only nine or ten girls in the whole country that play trombone, to see four of them together in one clip is pretty impressive. Enjoy!

Photo credit: mmatins

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

“Hot Smoked” Salmon – Fresh Fish, Old Coals, and a Squeeze of Lemon

This video recipe was actually thrown together after some testing I did filming in outdoor light, and also some more tests using the new digital camera. I had just grilled some chicken and vegetables, and wanted to try to “hot smoke” a couple of salmon filets with the left-over and quickly fading coals. I had already soaked some wood chips that I never ended up using for the chicken, so I was ready to go. I figured I would bring the camera outside and experiment while I smoked the salmon. Well, when I was done, the clips turned out better than I expected, so I edited it together. While not my best work, it still turned out pretty good.

One thing I didn’t film was how to fold up an aluminum foil “pan” hold the filets, but I’m sure you can manage that once you watch the clip. Just be sure to use 5 or 6 layers so it’s nice and sturdy. The rest of the clip is pretty easy to follow, and really is a nice trick to use those dying coals for one more gourmet application.

The term “hot-smoking” refers to a higher heat method, using wood chips to smoke and cook fresh fish in a relatively short time. “Cold-smoked” salmon (the softer, buttery textured kind you get at the deli) is cured first and then smoked at much lower temperatures. It is almost impossible to do at home since the low and even temperature is extremely hard to control. Of course, we solved this problem with the now famous “Smoked Salmon “Gravlox” video recipe clip I did a few months ago. If you want to create a “cold-smoked” style cured salmon check out that clip. It works great! But this time it’s all about the hot-smoked method. Enjoy!

2 six-ounce salmon filets
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon
wood chips soaked for at least 1 hour
heavy duty foil

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lime and Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potatoes – Wham, Bam, it’s not a Yam??

OK, let’s clear up a bit of culinary confusion. In the produce department of your local grocery store, they sell both sweet potatoes and yams. The fact is they are all actually sweet potatoes. Some varieties of sweet potatoes, like Beauregard and Garnet, are often marketed as “yams.” So, in the clip when I say that you can use sweet potatoes or yams, what I’m really saying is you can use any variety of sweet potato available for this recipe. True yams are native to Africa and Asia and are rarely, if ever, seen in our markets.

This simple roasted sweet potato video recipe is a perfect side dish to all those great, grilled classics you’ll be cooking up this summer. I’m sure you already know how much better for you the good old sweet potato is than the regular russet. Not only are they much higher in fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein and vitamins, but they also taste good. It’s a win win. I hope you’ve got your silicon baking mat ready, as it makes this recipe a snap as you’ll see in the video. Of course, you can really spice these up with a bit more Chipotle than I used, but the tablespoon I put in gives it just the right kick, plus that wonderful, slightly smoky flavor. By the way, the lime Chipotle mixture we create to start the dish is actually an example of a Citronette, which we explored in another recipe clip. If you haven’t seen that one, I’ve linked it in so you can check it out. Enjoy!

3 sweet potatoes
1 large juicy lime
1 tbl Chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
*Note: we baked for 30 min at 375F, then tossed in the remaining lime mixture, and then finished at 450F for another 10-15 minutes until tender and nicely glazed.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Fresh Strawberries and a New Camera

It's my birthday on July 11th, and my Wife and In-laws surprised me with a much needed digital camera! So, I thought I would do a little experimenting. This was the first food shot ever; some fresh strawberries in all their summer glory. Thank you Michele, Peggy and Al! Hopefully future blog posts will display photos that are of a much higher quality. Don't worry, I have no plans to replace the video clips with photo essays, I just want to improve the overall visual appeal of the site. By the way, if you're thinking that another reason for this post was to inform all you regular viewers that my birthday was coming up in a shameless ploy to solicit a few donantions to the site...well, I can not confirm or deny any such attemp. Enjoy!