Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cilantro Lime Slaw and Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Two little things to make your summer more summery: homemade barbecue sauce and my favorite side dish of the season, cabbage with cilantro, garlic and lime.  A slaw, if you will.

First, the sauce.  You can make your own barbecue sauce a thousand times more delicious that those overpriced bottles of sludge in the market.  It's SO easy and so quick and you probably already have everything you need in your pantry.

I don't have a recipe to give you.  I'll just tell you roughly what I put in mine and that you can do it how ever you'd like to and it will still taste great.

The base is tomato sauce or ketchup.  Seriously, ketchup is fine.  Don't turn your nose up at the idea.  I use ketchup and it's great.  I was surprised by that but it's true.  I also add a little squeeze of tomato paste concentrate from a tube to deepen that tomato flavor even more.

Next, add any combination you wish of any of these ingredients according to your taste:

  • cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion granules
  • dry mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • brown sugar
  • black strap molasses (don't need much, but it does deepen, darken, thicken and sweeten nicely)
  • honey (does what molasses does without the deep and dark)
  • apple cider vinegar (just a little goes a long way.  perfect for adding a little acidity)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tomato paste

In the version you see pictured, I put everything but the mustard, onion granules, honey and brown sugar.  Sometimes, I put those in and omit other things.  It depends on what I'm cooking and what I'm in the mood for.  It's hard to go wrong.  Just taste as you go and season accordingly.

Mix it all up, apply to meat while grilling, eat 'em up yum.  It's the simplest thing in the world and you'll wonder why you ever spent $5 on a jar of stuff that doesn't really taste as good as yours.

Next is the cabbage slaw that Kid Cayenne and I eat tubs of all summer long.  It is light, refreshing, limey and garlicky... some of our favorite things.  Disclaimer: it does contain raw garlic, which I know is a bit much for some, so omit that if you think you'll hate it or want to kiss someone who hasn't enjoyed your slaw.

Cilantro Lime Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head of green cabbage, finely shredded with a sharp knife or mandolin
3 TB cilantro, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced as finely as you can manage (optional)
juice of 3 limes
2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil
lots of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  (I can't imagine that this would do very will with regular salt and pepper)

Add all ingredients to a very large bowl and toss until cabbage is coated.  Adjust seasonings accordingly.  This slaw benefits from plenty of salt and pepper.  Please try to go for the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  I can't imagine that granulated salt and finely ground pepper would do well here at all.

Goes beautifully with barbecued chicken, sausages or hamburgers.  Goes beautifully with lots of things, really.   Makes a big bowl... probably 6-8 servings.

Do any of you have any bbq sauce or slaw variations that you love?  Please tell me about them.

edt: I forgot to mention that this is perfect as a side or topping for soft tacos and fajitas!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Café Reconcile, New Orleans

Last week marked my first ever visit to Café Reconcile and it surely did not disappoint.  I had the pleasure of lunching with Celeste from Bouillie.  She is a wealth of information on Southern Louisiana food and food culture.  Learning more about the history of this remarkable organization from her was a treat.

Café Reconcile is non-profit restaurant that focuses on training youth (ages 16-22) from at-risk communities in the art of food service and restaurant management.  There are a slew of people, restaurants and organizations that contribute to this goal, including some of the best executive chefs in New Orleans.  The culinary training is outstanding but more than anything, the kids are amazing.  The energy in this restaurant is warm, positive, full of strength, pride and hope.  You can't not feel it.  It's infectious and wonderful.

And the food?  Fantastic!  Celeste calls it "your grandma's food" but my grandma isn't from South Louisiana and she didn't sure didn't cook like this.  We were lucky enough to come on a day when the special was Palace Cafe's signature preparation for Crabmeat Cheesecake.  It was absolutely lovely.  Celeste chose macaroni and cheese and stewed okra with shrimp as her side dishes

I had the Thursday special of shrimp and white beans with sides of potato salad and collard greens.  The main dish was packed full of shrimp, savory and with a gorgeous depth of flavor that has me smitten.  Everything was exactly as it should be.  Comforting and familiar while also being surprisingly nuanced and complex.  Beautifully prepared and served with enthusiasm, it was an excellent meal.  I don't know how it has taken me 11 years of living in New Orleans to go, but I have truly been missing out.

Café Reconcile on Urbanspoon


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mojo Grilled Pork with Orange-Jicama Salad

Commenced new Bodum Fyrkat grill usage (I just like saying that. Fyrkat!  Also, "gril de pique-nique" which is what it said on the box.  Riiight?)  with a recipe for Mojo Grilled Pork with Orange-Jicama Salad from an issue of America's Test Kitchen magazine from Cook's Illustrated called 30 Minute Suppers.  Fun, because it used jicama, an ingredient I have never eaten before.  The article described it as a cross between an apple and a potato.  Good enough for me.  I also added grilled asparagus as a side.

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves. minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup juice and peeled and segmented fruit from 2 oranges
1/4 cup juice from 2 limes
1 TB brown sugar
1/2 jicama, peeled and cut into 2 x 1/4 inch pieces
2 TB cilantro, minced
salt and pepper
8 thin bone-in pork chops, about 4 oz each, 1/2 inch thick  (I used boneless chops)

Heat oil in small pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to bowl and whisk in orange juice, lime juice and brown sugar.  Cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Combine jicama, orange segments, cilantro and 1/4 cup dressing in a second bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss pork chops with 1/4 cup dressing and season with salt and pepper.  Grill chops over hot fire until lightly charred and tops begin to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.  Flip chops and grill until just cooked through, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to platter, drizzle with remaining dressing, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve with orange-jicama salad.
Now I will say... this wasn't the best meal I've ever made.  There was something lacking, some element that should have made the ingredients sing, that somehow just didn't.  It was fine and I'm not saying you shouldn't make it.  It was a perfectly appropriate summer meal.  I just thought it funny that with such outstanding flavor personalities like citrus, garlic, cumin and cilantro, it seems that it should have had more... glory.  It was fine though.

Speaking of glory.  I got glory in the form of dessert.

Strawberries dipped in crème fraiche and brown sugar.  Have you ever done that?  It is mind blowingly delicious.  You take these three things, these lovely things on their own, you put them together and suddenly they are so very, very much more.  It would be inadequate for me to tell you that the tangy, almost lemony nature of the crème fraiche joins brilliantly with the crumbly darkness of the brown sugar and turns even a less than perfect strawberry into a symphony.  You just have to try it.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Future Figs, Pretty Bodum Grill and My Mystery Tree

I've just had a power outage (whole block, neighborhood... whole city?) and with no interwebs to keep me busy, I ventured outside.  I mowed the lawn, pondered my mystery tree and wondered how long 'til I have fresh figs to eat.

Here is the mystery tree.  What is this?  It had yellow fruit on it earlier this year.  I came across a post at Apartment Therapy's cooking site that makes me think maybe it is loquat.  It looks very similar.  Can anyone tell me?

I'm thrilled to have a fig tree.  It's beautiful and I look forward to the day I can pick the fruit.  It straddles mine and the neighbor's yard, so I may have to fight for the figs, but I am completely prepared to do that.

Best of all, today my new grill was delivered.  I know that some of you are very fancy with your Big Green Eggs and your Serious Grill Business but I am lazy, prone to neglect and sloth and really just want something small and easy to bring in from the humidity and rain.  My last grill was a great little cast iron hibachi that did a really good job but was so heavy that I eventually slacked off on bringing it inside and it rusted away.

This time I knew what I needed.  I wanted a patio grill with enough room to make food for 2-4 people.  Sturdy but light weight.  Portable.  A friend pointed the Bodum Fyrkat Picnic Grill out to me and it fit the bill perfectly.  Plus: adorable.

It has little silicon clips to keep the lid on while moving it from place to place, along with a silicon covered handle.  Nicely enameled, seemingly well built and just the right size.  They come in an array of summer colors and are made by Bodum, of Bodum french press fame.  I know, strange right?  They seem to have branched out into BBQ this year.  I'm a little nervous just because they aren't an established grill manufacturer, but at $50 and given that my needs aren't hardcore grilling purposes, I'm sure it will be fine.  I'll let you know how it works out in practice.  I also bought a Weber chimney charcoal starter and am looking forward to having deliciousness tonight.  Just not sure yet, what to cook.  I have some fat little asparagus in the fridge, just waiting to hit the grill.  Meat is as yet undecided.  Anyone grill something nice lately?  I crave inspiration.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pozole! Chicken, Tomatillo and Hominy Stew

I don't remember where I got this recipe, and therefore can't vouch for it's authenticity, but I can tell you that it's very good, makes a huge batch and freezes well.  Perfect too, if you have a plethora of tomatillos growing in your garden (I'm looking at you, Bouillie). It's a great summer soup (stew?), full of smoky, spicy verde goodness and perfect for accessorizing with fresh toppings.  It is a bit high on the spice-ometer but removing the seeds from the chiles or reducing the amount will help if that is a concern for you.

1 lb fresh tomatillos, husks removed, or 3 (11-oz) cans, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 (29-oz.) can golden or white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes (I don't drain these)
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 lb cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

If using fresh tomatillos, bring medium saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Discard papery outer layer (if present) and add tomatillos to the pot.  Boil 5 minutes or until soft.  Drain.  Puree tomatillos in food processor or blender until smooth.

If you are using canned tomatillos, eliminate the boiling step and just puree the drained tomatillos.  I've done both and it comes out nicely either way.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  This recipe fills my 4.5 quart dutch oven to the brim, so don't use anything smaller.  A 5 quart pot is ideal.

Add onion to the hot oil and cook 5 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add cumin and oregano; cook 20 seconds. Add pureed tomatillos, broth, hominy, tomatoes and chipotle chiles. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low to low. Simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until thick.

Stir in cooked chicken and simmer another 4-5 minutes until chicken is heated through.  Turn off heat and add chopped cilantro.

Serve with condiments for adding to the top such as chopped green oinion, cilantro, diced radish, sliced avocado, tortilla chips and crumbled queso fresca (I used crumbled cheddar and monterrey jack but only because I had forgotten to buy the good stuff and was too lazy to go further than the corner grocery for a replacement.  Don't be like me.  Get the real deal, it's a million times better).  Lime wedges might also be nice.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Domenica Happy Hour

Domenica is getting lots of lip service right now for rolling out their pizzeria style order and pick up service, which is great, but I'm more over the moon about their Happy Hour.  From 3-6pm every day (even weekends) pizzas and cocktails are half price.  No kidding.  That makes their glorious pizzas $6.50 and your whole bar tab (excluding bottles of wine) half of what it would normally be.  Perfect.  So far, my favorites are the Margherita and the Spicy Lamb Meatball, but I haven't made my way through the entire menu yet.

My favorite cocktail at the moment is their Battle Of Pavia, consisting of Hendricks, limoncello and a bit of strawberry.

If you have any room leftover, the desserts (while not half off during happy hour) are nice too.  Not excellent, but nice.  Here is blackberry panna cotta with biscotti (foreground) and a ricotta cheesecake with blueberries, lemon and candied pistachios (background).

Domenica on Urbanspoon


Monday, June 14, 2010

Freret Street PoBoys and Donut Shop

I am rapidly becoming a big fan of Freret Street PoBoys and Donuts.  The Garlic Roast Beef Po-Poy is an excellent version, tender shredded roast beef dripping with gravy and made all the more delicious because of a hearty seasoning of garlic.  I'm sold.

The red beans and rice are creamy and flavorful, loaded with ham and sausage... really nice.

I've also had the Creole gumbo which included shrimp, crab (alittle light on the crab actually) and what seemed like at least 5 kinds of sausage or ham.  It's a slightly runnier gumbo, which is the way I prefer it.  Perfectly good gumbo.

Oh, and the bear claw donut was superb.  Prices are fair.  Portions are good.  All in all, a great little neighborhood spot.

Freret St. Po Boy & Donuts on Urbanspoon


Monday, June 7, 2010

Big, Bad May and Easy Vegetable Soup

May was a tough month for my wrist and consequently my kitchen and my blog.  I have something going on in my right wrist and hand that has caused quite a bit of pain, lack of stability and range of motion and the inability to exert any pressure on it.  This made typing, mouse clicking, stirring, chopping, hell even brushing my teeth or turning a doorknob very, very challenging.  Thanks to the wonders of a steroid shot, I am in much better shape now and can start to catch up.

May was tough in other ways too.  Incomprehensible amounts of oil are pouring, unabated,  into our beloved Gulf of Mexico since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began on April 22, 2010 .  Like everyone else on the Gulf Coast, Kid Cayenne and I  have been watching it happen with developing levels of horror, helplessness and fury.

Like hundreds of others, we gathered in the French Quarter on Sunday, May 30th, to rally against the terrible injustice and demand intervention.  I don't know that it helped anything to show up, listen and nod to the speakers.

More than anything, we just wanted our presence felt... two more standing up against what is wrong and terrible and devastating. We wanted to reject complacency and to somehow represent the self respect and self worth that Louisiana deserves, to support those who were voicing their outrage and their positive ideas for ways we could all help.

Now, it's June and though the oil still spills, I have been able to do the dishes, make a nice vegetable soup (O, meditative chopping, how I missed you) and otherwise try to grasp some amount of order from the unruliness that was last month.

For the soup, a mixture of fresh, frozen and canned to make things really quick and easy...

3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 ts cayenne pepper
1 ts salt
2 TB olive oil
1 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 can cannellinni beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 1 lb. bag of frozen vegetables (I use a mixture of corn, peas, lima beans, green beans and more carrot), thawed
1 quart of very nice homemade chicken broth if you have it, or a carton of premade if you don't
1 cup orecchiette, shell or other small pasta
1 tomato, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan Reggiano to grate over the top

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat olive oil and sauté shallots and garlic until soft.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper.  Add carrots and sauté until beginning to go golden.  Add squash and zucchini and sauté until just beginning to soften.  Add cannellinni beans, frozen vegetables and broth.  If your broth isn't very flavorful (I had made mine with thyme and a few other herbs originally) consider adding whatever dry herbs please you at this time.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Raise heat slightly to get a high simmer.  Add pasta and cook for amount of time directed on the package.  Salt and pepper to taste.  At the end, add diced tomato and stir in to heat.  They should warm but not cook down.

Serve with plentiful amounts of shaved Parmesan Reggiano over the top and bread or crackers.


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