Sunday, May 29, 2011

Carolina Preview

Next week I will be spending a week on Hilton Head Island, so this week I am preparing my taste buds for the cuisine.

Pulled Pork Barbecue
Vinegar Barbecue Sauce
Mexican Coleslaw

I have not fixed pulled pork before so this was a first and much easier than expected. I purchased a 5 pound pork shoulder. (it was a bit scary looking) The rub is made of; smoked paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and sea salt. The rub is rubbed on all sides of the pork, covered with plastic and refrigerated overnight. The next day, in a foiled lined pan, the pork is roasted at 300 degrees for 6 hours. This was a wonderful piece of meat. After roasting and resting for about 30 minutes, the fat (such as it was, came off easily as did the very small bone) With two forks I pulled apart the meat. There was lots of it.

While the meat was roasting, I made the a vinegar barbecue sauce. I do product testing a couple of times a year and now had a Holland House Red Wine Vinegar to test. The recipe called for cider vinegar; I substituted the red wine. The other ingredients were yellow mustard, ketchup, sugar, garlic, cayenne, and black pepper. This is simmered until thoroughly mixed and set aside. When the pork was shredded, I added some of the sauce and saved the rest to add as desired.

The slaw was mostly my own. I don't care for 'creamy' coleslaw, made with mayonnaise. As long as I was testing the red wine vinegar I used it in the slaw as well. I bought a bag of green and red cabbage with carrots. I added chopped cilantro, diced jalepeno, and orange bell pepper. The dressing is red wine vinegar, EVOO and salt. Very crunchy and an excellent compliment to the pulled pork.

I served it on a sliced toasted Ciabatta roll, though it was just fine served without the roll.

A small dish of ice cream cooled off my pallet.

The table was excellent and I will do pulled meat again, perhaps chicken?
I will be taking a couple of weeks off for vacation. When I come back, I plan to cut back on 'red' meat and my table will be more vegetable/fruit/grain showplaces. We shall see how that goes. Have a great couple of weeks and Happy Memorial Day. Let's remember out service people; past and present.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All Things Rhubarb....Almost

The table this week will focus on rhubarb...Thank you Mimi. Rhubarb is a wonderful spring fruit. This week I used it in several ways. Here is what's on Marilyn's Table:

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Rhubarb Glaze
Roasted Artichokes
Mixed Spring greens with Rhubarb Vinaigrette
Meringue Nests with Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce

The glaze for the chicken breasts is made of rhubarb and thawed cranberry-apple juice concentrate. It is simmered and thickened with cornstarch and water. Dijon mustard is added with red wine vinegar until reduced by half. The glaze is painted on partial grilled chicken breasts and cooked until done. Paint again just before removing from heat. Slice and serve.

I love artichokes but have never roasted them. Clean artichokes by cutting off the stems; slice off the top and cut off the tips of the leaves. Place a clove of garlic in the top; squeeze lemon over the top and drizzle with EVOO and salt. Wrap in foil. Roast for about 1 hour. Serve with butter lemon dipping sauce or sauce of your choice. An excellent preparation and will roast them again.

The salad is a mix of spring greens and sliced English cucumber. The dressing is water and honey simmered until combined. Add strawberries, rhubarb and minced shallots. Add red wine vinegar and lemon zest until reduced by half. Put in processor with Dijon mustard until smooth and drizzle EVOO until dressing consistency. Drizzle over salad. Excellent!!!

I remember as a child my Mom having parties for her sewing club and Mission Society from church. Dessert was always part of the get together. Schaum Tort (meringue nests) were often part of the dessert. A bakery in Rockford was always available for the tarts. Weather had a lot to due with the nests. If the weather was humid, tarts were not available. Egg whites are whipped with sugar until stiff peaks and baked in a very slow oven until crisp and filled with berries and rhubarb sauce. Topped with whipped cream. Though my nests were a bit stickey, they were very good. Lovely!!

This table was an excellent showing of spring rhubarb. Next week I will do a Memorial Day menu. I'm not sure what as yet so check it out...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood....

This Mother's Day is perhaps the nicest day so far this spring. I took the opportunity to take a long walk in my neighborhood. The flowering trees on the property are almost at their peak. The fragrance of the blossoms was lovely. Lots of spring activity along the way. Robins and a couple of Downy woodpeckers were in the park behind the condos. The edge of the woods was a carpet of violets. Squirrels and the ever present chipmunks were enjoying the day chasing each other around. There were ducks in the creek that runs through the park and a family of Canada Geese were checking out the lake. A white and a blue heron, and a turtle sunning himself on a log in the lake made me think winter is finally over. I came home to day two of my Cinco de Mayo Table. Mexican food is one of my favorites cuisines. The bold flavors and colors are a large part of the meal. A couple of real winners this week and a real dud.

Santa Barbara Sunset Margarita
Steak Quesadillas with Roasted Tomatillo and Apple Salsa
Eva Langoria's Chunky Guacamole
Spice Rubbed Cedar Plank Salmon Tacos
Caramel Banana Taquitos

The margarita was a surprise. I saw it prepared on Food Network and the colors were so much like a sunset, I tried it. Tequila, lemonade and Fresca (yes the soda of years ago is still around) are shaken with ice and poured over more ice in a glass. A bit of cranberry juice is added. The juice floats on the tequila mix and does look much like a sunset. It is a very refreshing drink and I wished that I had had more tequila than what was in the little bottle. Just enough for one on Saturday and one on Sunday. A winner!

The steak quesadilla was also quite good. However, I would use a different cut of meat. The skirt steak was a bit on the tough side. It is grilled and sliced thin. A flour tortilla is warmed in a cast iron pan. The steak is layered on the tortilla and the salsa is spread over the top. The salsa was also a pleasant surprise. Tomatillos, jalapeno pepper, garlic, onion and a quartered Granny Smith apple are tossed with EVOO and S&P. The mix is roasted until the tomatillos are soft. The mixture is then blended until smooth. The jalapeno was very mild so I added a dash of cayenne pepper to perk it up a bit. I don't think I would call it a salsa since it blended and not chunky at all. Good flavor, however. Shredded mozzarella is spread over the salsa and with another tortilla on top. It is then put back in the cast iron skillet and cooked on both sides until the cheese melts. Cut in quarters and served with Eva's guacamole it is an excellent dish.

The guacamole is cubes of avocado, ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped, chopped white onion, cilantro and minced, seeded Serrano chile. The ingredients are gently mixed and lemon juice, salt and pepper are added. It's a very chunky guacamole and one of the best I've had. Who knew Eva could also cook?

On Sunday I made the cedar planked salmon tacos. The wood is soaked for a couple of hours. A spice mixture is spooned onto the plank, the salmon is laid skin side down on the spice with more pressed into the flesh. The plank is put in the oven for about 25 minutes. The salmon came out juicy and the spice gave it a lot of flavor. The salmon is flaked and mixed with a salad to be put in corn tortillas. The salad is made from chopped cilantro and parsley, chopped green onions, shredded red and green cabbage, fire roasted pasilla and Anaheim chiles, diced Serrano chile and fresh squeezed lime juice. I roasted the peppers over the flame on the stove until blackened. The skin is scraped off and the pepper chopped. It's a great salad, lots of color and flavor with the salmon. A bit of crumbled Mexican cheese is added and some of the leftover guacamole. Excellent, but I would use flour tortillas next time. The corn ones tear and fall apart.

Dessert was the dud of the meal. Flour tortillas are spread with dulce de leche. A banana is cut length wise and laid at one side. Coconut is added and the banana is rolled up like a cigar. A tooth pick holds the tortilla together and it is fried in canola oil. A mixture of melted chocolate, hot coffee and cinnamon are drizzled over the fried roll. It was awful. A waste of banana and chocolate. Except for that both meals were ones I would do again.

Hope you all had a good weekend. I will be away next week, but will return the following one. Enjoy the nice spring weather.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Celebrate Spring...

This was a lovely spring weekend. A bit cool, but lots of sun. It was also Chocolate Festival in Long Grove. I needed my annual warm chocolate donut and it was as expected. Wonderful!! I look forward to the Strawberry festival the end of June and Apple Festival in fall. The weather made the menu for this weeks Table very special. Spring brings new fruits and vegetables and I used those available in the menu. Here's what is on Marilyn's Table:

Blackberry-Bourbon Iced Tea
Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb
Roasted Artichokes, Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus
Not Your Usual Strawberry Shortcake

The drink was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not a fan of bourbon to start with, but it sounded good. Fresh blackberries are mashed with a bit of sugar. Black tea bags are simmered in hot water, cooled and added to the blackberry mash, cooled and strained into a pitcher. It is then chilled in the fridge, poured over ice and a jigger of bourbon is added. Chopped fresh mint is stirred in at the end. A bit Blah. I was glad I was again able to get a mini bottle of bourbon so I don't have a mostly full bottle to take up space.

The lamb, however, was excellent. A rub of fresh rosemary, garlic, S&P and EVOO are blended and rubbed into the lamb. Leave to rest for about an hour before putting into oven to roast. Meanwhile clean 2 artichokes, cut in half and simmer in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain, remove the choke and toss with fingerling potatoes cut in half and cleaned asparagus spears with EVOO S&P. About 20 minutes before meat is cooked to desired doneness (for me medium rare) arrange artichokes, potatoes and asparagus around meat an finish roasting. Let meat rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve slices with artichoke, potatoes and asparagus. Spring on a plate.

I love strawberries, but shortcakes leave me flat. So I chose an angel food cake to use for the base. I cut slices and toasted them in the oven to brown the edges. Lightly sugared berries are put on the cake, whipped cream is spooned over the top with grated dark chocolate and a fresh mint sprig. YUM!

After Cinco de Mayo next week, I expect to have more spring recipes. There are lots of spring ingredients to use; rhubarb, spring onions, ramps and who knows what will appear at the farmers market in June.

Come back for Cince de Mayo next week. One of my favorite food cultures. So much color and flavor. Have a good week and hopefully Spring is here to stay.