Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Aaron Weinstein and Scott Hamilton- Jazz and Jambalaya

Last night I had the privilege of listening to Jazz great Scott Hamilton (saxaphonist) at the Sahara Club in Haverhill, Massachusetts, He had with him an extraordinary group of musicians: Marshall Wood on Bass, Jim Gwin on Drums and Peter Schmelling on Piano. They were outstanding. A young Jazz violinist joined them for a few songs. His name is Aaron Weinstein. Remember that name: Aaron Weinstein. He is a man who is going to carry Jazz into the future. What an incredible musician. or,,3443934,00.html
I wrote to him this morning and mentioned that I was so impressed with Aarons... I’m not sure if I want to call it a performance- it was more of a physical/complex/energized/auditory conversation between a musical extension of himself and a musical extension of Scott Hamilton. The way Aaron could dance around the notes Scott was playing and have the sounds make sense in ways I didn’t know they could...It was brilliant. I’d love to have my children hear them play. So, Lets bring them to Maine.
I think everyone deserves a healthy dose of their vegetables- and Jazz- on a daily basis.
In addition to Jazz and Vegetables..Jambalaya is a delicious way to pass an evening. Here is one of my favorite recipes. You can substitute alligator for the Maine Shrimp if you like. With a salad and bread you've got yourself a meal!

Cajun Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya
3 pounds spicy or mild smoked pork sausage-sliced 1/2” thick
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh meat-coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon chicken or turkey bouillon paste
2 pounds onions, diced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 pound tasso-smoked, seasoned pork, cubed
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sweet basil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
6 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 pounds long-grain rice
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat parsley
2 pounds clean, peeled, raw Maine shrimp

Using a large saucepan with a cover, cook the sausage, stirring constantly. Remove from pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off, and discard all but 2 T of the fat from the pan. Add the chicken and bouillon paste and cook until golden brown.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic; cook until the onions are translucent. Add 1/2 cup of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the brown bits. There is so much flavor in the caramelized fat/sugars in the pan.
Reduce heat to low. Add the Tasso, thyme, basil, black and white pepper. Simmer 15 minutes.
Add the stock and bring to a full boil. Add the rice and shrimp. Reduce heat to medium, stirring often. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly so there are no grains of rice sticking and burning.
Stir in the parsley. When the mixture returns to a boil, stir well to be sure nothing is stuck to the bottom. Move the pan to the unit on your stove with the smallest flame/ lowest btu- reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for at least 25 minutes. Do not remove the cover while the rice is steaming. Stir carefully just before serving to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Pork Roast and Apple Sauce

The recipe for today is Pork Roast with Maple Glaze. Our dear friends the Olivers had a house fire last night. We've all been working together to find ways to help them get back on their feet. Tonight's meal was quick and easy.
Pork Loin with Maple Glaze: use the kind or pork loin/roast you like- I just got what was on sale today. Rinse it. Pat it dry. Season with salt, pepper and some minced garlic. Rub a Tablespoon or two of dijon or honey mustard over the top. Place it in a roasting pan and drizzle with pure maple syrup. Roast it at 350 degrees 20 minutes per pound. When it's done, remove it from the oven, cover with foil and let it sit 10 to 15 minutes. Swing dance around the kitchen to some Louis Armstrong while you wait. Slice it across the grain and serve with rice pilaf and sweet baby peas. A dollop of chunky applesauce on the side completes your meal. Drizzle some of the pan juices over the top of the sliced meat just before you serve. Yum!
Remember to count your blessings before you go to sleep tonight. I hope you are safe, warm, fed, content and grateful. We are all so lucky- there are always blessings to count. I'm so glad that Ernie, Molly, Sean, Gavin and Sawyer are alright. A fire can take belongings. People are the magic that make a house a home. Thank goodness we've still got the magic. We'll help them work out the rest.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Elizabeth's Mega Sandwich with Pickled Pepper Sauce

Kids find something awesomely cool about a sandwich made on a whole loaf of bread. What fun it was tonight to investigate the possibilities of mega-turkey-sandwich creation from a ten year old's perspective. Remember, now, that this particular ten year old loves sandwiches that have the sum total of two ingredients for perfection. The two-and-only-two ingredients are a piece of crusty baguette and slices of plainplainplain turkey. We had to modify this duo to include some form of green vegtable. I don't mind that she has not inherited my love for mayonnaise or salt or all things spicy. She may just be on to the deconstructed trend in haute cuisine. I think that the chefs who set up 'deconstructed dishes' may have been among the kids who didn't like anything touching on their dinner plates, just like my favorite ten year old. We can assemble almost any meal and as long as I leave all the ingredients separate and raw (whenever possible) she'll probably eat most of it. Tonight we bought the longest baguette we could find. We sliced it in half horizontally and removed quite a bit of the soft middle. An entire pound of natural sliced turkey breast filled the trench in the loaf. The top was set on the turkey and the "sandwich" cut into four uneven pieces for dinner. Once it was cut apart, each of us decorated our own. We all chose a couple of leaves of romaine. Elizabeth's was on the side of course. The guys had sambal oelek (chili paste), sliced sundried tomatoes, Newman's sun dried tomato vinaigrette and havarti. Travis of course had bacon too. I made up a little sauce with some pickled pepper relish and mayonnaise. This little sauce has one part red spicy pickled pepper relish, one part mayonnaise and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. If I was making this up for a crowd of grown ups I would have layered the turkey, havarti, some pickled pepper sauce, romaine and sun dried tomato pesto. Sun dried tomato pesto can be made easily by putting 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil into a food processor. Puree until coarsely chopped. Add a handful of fresh basil leaves, a pinch of sea salt, 5 grinds black pepper, 1 Tablespoon room temperature water, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a handful of grated asiago cheese. Pulse until the mixture is combined and smooth. This is great on a sandwich of any size or tossed with a plate of pasta.
Hope you like it!
We are off to dance Saturday night in Brunswick. We are trying to learn a new swing dance move every week. The most recent is a kind of travelling footwork. Lead and follow move to the side together- lead/right, follow/left- open position. Weight is on- lead/left foot, follow/right foot. Each partner moves their weighted foot in the direction of the other foot by shifting toe, heel, toe, heel... The foot that is not weight bearing is lightly touching the floor with the tip of the toes. As the weighted foot "walks" across the floor- the non weighted foot moves in a circular motion. This is very much like patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but when performed- it looks great! I'll try to make a little movie to show you what I mean. What are your favorite swing dance moves?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday Pancakes are Soooo Good! Happy Mardi Gras!!

Tradition stacks up again this year with a tower of pancakes dripping with Maine maple syrup. We made the ever so wonderful breakfast for dinner celebration tonight. There is something fun about eating your day backwards. The pancakes came out fluffy and hearty with the perfect absorbability for all the melted butter and syrup. Elizabeth macerated some strawberries for the top of her stack. I sliced two bananas and a fuji apple, juiced a lemon and tossed them with a quarter cup of light brown sugar. They were the perfect compliment to the pancakes.
We still have quite a bit of pork left in the freezer from the pig we purchased with Mike, Paula and Brad last fall. I defrosted two packages of sausage that Curtis Meats had made up- one hot, one sweet. They browned up nicely with a couple of cloves of garlic and a splash of maple syrup.
This pancake recipe is one I've used dozens of times.
Stir together: 4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 cup wheat germ and 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
In a separate bowl combine: 4 eggs, 6 oz greek or regular plain yogurt, 3 1/2 cups buttermilk, 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, 1/4 cup melted butter or oil
Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
Cook on a hot griddle.
Serve immediately with butter, maple syrup, fruit or yogurt.
Now we really have to get out and swing dance this weekend! I can't wait to try out a couple of new moves we saw Kevin and Carla, Skye and Sarah doing on a youtube video from the Montpillier Swing Dance Festival. See the video here:
MSDF 2003 - social: Kevin, Carla, Skye, Sarah

Monday, February 19, 2007

Boiga Belly and Everything Bagels

Who invented Everything Bagels? If it were me, I would have had all the ingredients separated nicely into lovely storage containers- until I spilled a bunch of them when making one type. I couldn't waste all those delicious tidbits, so, since I had spilled them into a clean, bagel-filled tote, I would just say- I meant to do it that way. Which, indeed, is what I often do in the kitchen. When something comes out different than I intended- I just pretend that I meant to do it that way. Culinary accidents don't have to be wrong- they can be considered new flavor combinations just realizing their time has come. We had everything bagel burgers tonight. I had some nice ground beef that practically made itself into patties. While they cooked (in a frying pan because 2 degrees above zero is not the grilling weather I wanted to wander into tonight) I sprinkled them with a generous amount of garlic powder, a pinch of sea salt and several grinds of black pepper. They cooked up nicely to a warm pink-centered medium. I baked up some everything bagels and drizzled the cut halves with garlic oil. The burgers were slid onto the bagel and topped with everyone's choice of condiment. I made a "special sauce" for my burger- not the most heart healthy- but certainly delicious. Take 1 part sweet relish, add 2 parts mayonnaise, 2 parts katsup and 3 parts crumbled feta cheese. A pinch of cayenne spices it up if you want your tongue to tingle and I love it when my tongue tingles! That ought to be a whole episode of my up and coming cooking show- temptations to tingle your tongue.
When we were little my brother, fondly referred to as "bruver" Todd had a Tshirt that he wore until the picture was almost worn off the front. In those days he ate rice, corn, potatoes, peas(under duress), plain chicken, hamburgers, butter and butter sandwiches(bread and butter alone) and steak. Desserts were the exception to the rule of course. It made sense that this shirt, his favorite at the time, depicted a large hamburger with the words Burger Belly underneath. Somehow it morphed into Boiga Belly and stuck. It always brings back fond memories.
There are some things that always evoke the feelings of being young and safe and happy. Many cause an automatic response. I know wherever we are if one of us says, "Ma na Ma na" (remember the little aliens on Sesame Street) the other will echo, "Doodoodoodoodoo" or when asked "Whoooo is it?" the answer will always be, "Its the plumber. I've come to fix the sink!" Now our kids say the same things. Ahh, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Life is good!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tilapia and Turbo Tax

What a day! I decided that since Elizabeth was home with a fever I would get a head start on my taxes. I got out all of my receipts from the entire 12 months of 2006. Not the fun old-fashioned kind of receipts that explain cookery but the dollars and cents 'which one goes into which category' kind. I sorted and sorted through stacks and piles all day long. I was going stir crazy in the early afternoon - since my sweetie has been home sick for three full days clocking temperatures that would heat up a chili pepper. With the blizzard outside for two days before I hadn't left the house since Tuesday. Now, it's Sunday and I Have to get outside. Sherwood hung in there with Bethie before he left for his blues jam up in Rockland; giving me time to scramble to the grocery store for my mini vacation. Travis has been a trooper throughout his sister's bout with this flu-thing, so, I brought him to the video store to rent a game for himself. Once at the market we picked up ingredients for his favorite BLT Caesar salad and some sweet looking Tilapia for the grown-ups. He will eat almost anything if we ask him. (One of his ultimate favoite foods is Unagi -barbequed eel- from Yosaku restaurant in Portland- How cool is that!) I knew we had fishsticks- another favorite for him- in the freezer. Elizabeth will almost always eat a quesidilla... and since we were all in lets-get-through-it-til-we're-all-healthy mode I figured we could all have something tasty without the usual "you've got to eat at least # more bites of vegetables" during dinner. We arrived home and Sherwood left to play, taking his favorite fretless bass along. I went back into the tunnel of taxes until he returned home, having had a wonderful time playing. His reputation preceeded him, and the guys at the Time Out Blues Pub got him up onstage before the frost was off his bass case.
When he got home I was so proud of him! He is an extraordinary player- though he would never admit it out loud. He always reverts into his Dad's voice- where the best possible compliment is: it was half-way decent. Anyway..... I think he is amazing!
The kids listened to Jazz on the cable/radio station while I got dinner ready. I was still in a bit of a turbo tax daze while I got the Tilapia into a pan. I coated it with Newman's SunDried Tomato salad dressing, fresh cracked black pepper, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. I topped it with a crumble of matzoh crackers and popped it into the oven. Travis' salad and ours differed by the addition of bacon bits. Torn romaine lettuce, croutons, hydrated-sundried tomatoes (coarsely chopped) and caesar dressing were tossed together for a delightful, quick side. The Tilapia cooked in 15 minutes alongside Trav's fishsticks. The tartar sauce came out great,too. It's just 4 parts mayo, 1 part sweet relish and 1/2 part fresh squeezed lemon juice. I wanted to eat it with my finger out of the bowl. Thankfully, I had a loaf of wholegrain bread to slice for the temporary vehicle until the fish was done. After dinner I went back into the trenches with TurboTax and now that it's well after 11:30 I'm finally done. Taxes are best served alongside a delicious filet of Tilapia. It's all worth it in the end. It feels so good to be done. Sweet Dreams. I know I'll sleep well.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Savory Cocoa-Cayenne Rub Warms Up Chicken on a Very Chilly Day

Brrr! Sherwood spent the afternoon fixing the chain on his commuter bike. Yes, he is still commuting in the 10 degree Maine winter weather. His dedication falls somewhere between brave and brilliant. He came inside looking like a grease covered popsicle. Guy called from San Francisco- Hi Guy! He went for a hike today in shorts and a T-shirt. Gotta love global warming. Sherwood and I both spent time on the trainer, cycling inside to get our muscles moving. I rode first, then made supper while Sherwood did his time. I know how much he loves chocolate so I wanted to make him something special and warm with that exquisite hint of cocoabean. I combined a couple of recipes to come up with a dry rub that was scrumptuous on chicken breasts. It was spicy and savory with that complex layer of dark chocolate lusciousness. Sherwood added a bit of Beale Street Barbeque Sauce to his. We had creamy mashed potatoes and "summer" squash (to remind us all that it will acutally come sometime). The rub would also be great on pork tenderloin or your choice of ribs. If you're trying to impress a friend who likes chocolate -- this is the way to fit another course involving that mysterious bean into your menu.
For the dry rub: Grind together 2 teaspoons white peppercorns, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds and 3 Tablespoons sea salt. When you've ground them all together to a coarse dust add: 3 Tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon cayenne. Mix all the ingredients well and set aside. When you're ready to make your dinner, scoop a couple of Tablespoons of rub onto a plate. Press your chicken or tenderloin into the powder, rolling it around to coat the meat. Massage the rub well so all surfaces of the meat are coated well with the rub. Drizzle meat with olive oil. Discard any rub left on the plate. Grill, Saute or roast the meat until done to your liking. If you have a favorite wet sauce you can serve it alongside for dipping. Delicious. If you prefer a more southwest flavor, substitute ground cumin for the cardamom. For a little extra spice add 1 teaspoon powdered chipotle pepper. Rubs are a great way to begin layering flavors in your meal. Use similar spices in your sauces to deepen the notes while adding other complimentary flavors to make your dish sparkle. Hooray for chocolate!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fresh Bread and Garlic Oil Post Blizzard

The snow stopped falling sometime before midnight after it's evoluton to freezing rain. When Ginger went out this morning she had to crunch through a good 2 inches of ice on the surface of about 8 inches of snow. I was in the mood for some fresh baked bread with garlic oil and pasta with sauce for dinner. I absolutely love the smell of baking bread. Sherwood made some fettucini and red sauce with mushrooms. We had some fresh broccoli and carrots as well. I popped a loaf of wholegrain bread in the oven and as it filled the house with aroma, Sherwood readied a bowl of garlic oil. The recipe for garlic oil is quite simple. for every 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, mash up or mince or press 2 good sized cloves of fresh garlic. Pour the oil into a bowl, add the garlic and stir. If you are making this for friends and want them to be impressed and curious about how you got that much flavor into olive oil- heat it gently on the stove with a few peppercorns. This will infuse the oil with a peppery garlic flavor. Let it cool and remove the solids by pouring through a fine mesh strainer. Use the oil within a day or two. Another way to make it is just to stir the garlic and oil together. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Either way you make it- when you're ready to serve, pour a glistening puddle onto a bread plate or shallow bowl. Grind a few twists of black pepper on the top and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Dip the edge of a crusty piece of bread into the oil and delight in its flavor. Delicious! I could eat only fresh (wholegrain) bread and garlic oil for an entire meal.
To top the meal off we all shared some dark chocolate m&m's. The little things in life sure make it great!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be My Valentine

Cupid certainly found me this year. We are sitting here all cozy and warm- actually warming up the house just in case we lose power. The blizzard is raging outside. It took some serious wrangling to get the door open an hour ago to take Ginger the Wonder Dog outside. I would guess that we have a good 10 inches of fresh, very heavy, icy-snow. The weather man says that we have another 8 hours or so before it's through. This year we purchased a share in a pig with some friends. We seared some meaty ribs for dinner with carmellized vidalia onions. I created a new barbeque type sauce that went over the top before I popped it into the oven to braise for a couple of hours. When we sat down to eat the meat just melted off the bones. I had found an enormous potato at the market this week and baked it up to go alongside the pork. It was delicious, mashed, with the sauce draped over the top. If you'd like the recipe for the bbq, let me know. It's a tomato base with garlic, fresh clementines, apple butter and maple syrup. Soo good. I'm just about ready for my Valentine's nightcap of hot chocolate before we're off to snuggle up for the night. Cheers!
If you want to make your own hot chocolate- stir a handful of dark chocolate bits together with a cup of Hot milk. Once the chocolate is melted add a tiny sparkle of vanilla and a couple of Tablespoons of half and half or cream. Heat it again and stir well. Add extra chocolate if you like it darker. You can sprinkle it with a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon or cayenne pepper or sea salt. My daughter loves a peppermint stick for stirring. Whipped cream or marshmallow fluff floating on top is a delicious final touch. Yummm.

I'll leave you with this:
crystal snowflakes dance
whirling in time to rhythms
whispered on the wind