Perfect Grilled Dinner

…except for the oops.

Wednesday, I got together a perfect dinner for the grill:

gp_ready2grill

Marinated pork brochette from Fatted Calf,
New potatoes from Marquita Farm,
Romano Beans from Iacopi Farm and
a lovely spring onion.

When I lit the grill, it caught rather slowly, I just closed the lid and went in the kitchen to finish prepping the vegetables. But I had this nagging thought… “could I be out of gas?”

The timer went off at 15 minutes to signal the grill is hot and I went to the back porch only to find the grill temperature about 250°F, not the 600 it should be. No panic, just get out the cast iron.

I got the gas grill because it takes less time for the fire to be ready, and clean-up is way easier than charcoal. Conversely, it’s not as aesthetically swell and unlike charcoal, you cannot tell when you run out of fuel. For the first couple years, I kept a log of when I used the grill, so I’d know when I was nearing the tank’s 20 hour capacity. That was cumbersome, and I gave it up.

gp_grill_pan

Pork and onions and beans will cook nicely in the cast iron grill pan, just fry the potatoes in the cast iron skillet.

gp_ci_skillet

Except for the grill pan throwing off some serious smoke, that worked fine. It ain’t the same as grilling and we could tell, but that pork — I’m not sure how or in what it was marinated — was fabulous. Just goes to show… start with good stuff.

gp_served

Y’know, sometimes I’m inclined to write about a meal just because the pictures are good (not to mention that the meal was good). That might be the case here.

Good Dinner; chicken, tomato, corn

So Carol said, “What a good dinner.”

Wow. Don’t hear that very often. The thing is, it was dead simple: looed chicken over rice, roasted Costaluto Genovese tomatoes, faux grilled Mexican corn; but I do have some ‘splainin’ to do.

LOOED CHICKENgd_plate_above
I wrote about that last September when I unearthed my recipe from back in Jerusalem days. On this occasion, I did three bone-in chicken thighs. I removed the skin before looing… the skin would just add fat to the sauce and not really contribute any flavor to the chicken as it would if it were fried or roasted. Good and juicy and yummy. There’s no way to screw it up.

RICE
For small amounts of straightforward long grain boiled rice, I cook the rice in my new favorite throw-it-in-boiling-water-like-pasta method. Throw whatever amount in boiling water; 10 minutes later, taste for doneness and strain it. Keep it warm in the strainer in the same pot with the lid on over a little bit of hot water.

ROASTED TOMATOES
I wrote about roasted tomatoes just last May 2010 when I discovered Costaluto Genovese tomatoes. I did the same way with bread crumbs (fresh from an Acme Herb Loaf) and a bit of butter and cheese — this time mozzarella remaining from what I used for a pizza last week.

gd_grill_corn

Instead of roasting in the oven, I put the pan on the grill while I was grilling the corn (10 minutes). Didn’t really get any “grilled flavor,” but didn’t have to heat up the oven.

CORN
I’m not a fan of corn-on-the-cob, but I am a fan of grilled corn. I have a recipe for Mexican Grilled Corn that I like from Readers Digest Recipes – probably a newspaper insert – in 2007. (Guess what, Mark Bittman did an almost identical recipe in the New York Times in 2010.) In any case, I made it my way for off-the-cob eating.

I just mixed the butter, mayo, parmesan and chili powder together and mixed that up with the hot corn cut off the cob. I used a little less parmesan and a little extra chili powder. My convoluted reasoning was that when you roll the corn-on-the-cob in the Parmesan, you don’t use it all, so use a little less to mix. Likewise, when you sprinkle with chili powder, that’s right up against your lips, so it’s like mainlining chili powder; thus, mixed in, use a little more. Carol thought it was pretty spicy (just the way I like it).

and that was dinner. yum

and that was dinner. yum

Mexican Grilled Corn
Readers Digest Recipes 2007

4 ears corn, cleaned
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
lime wedges

Brush corn with butter and season with salt & pepper.
Grill over high heat, turning every 2 to 3 minutes until tender and slightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Rest 2 to 3 minutes.
Brush corn with mayo and roll in cheese to coat. Sprinkle with chili powder. Serve with lime wedges.

July 23, 2010
Grilled Corn, Mexican Style
NYT Mark Bittman Yield: 4 servings.
Time: About 20 minutes

4 ears of corn, husked
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Prepare a grill, with heat medium-high and rack about 4 inches from the fire. Put corn on grill and cook until kernels begin to char, about 5 minutes, then turn. Continue cooking and turning until all sides are slightly blackened.

2. Mix together mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lime juice or chili powder if you like. Serve corn with chili-lime mayo.

There are other options: olive oil, chopped basil and Parmesan make an unexpected and very good combo; crumbled feta mixed with plain yogurt, lemon juice, oregano and cumin is amazing; and you can’t go wrong with mayo mixed with minced garlic, pimentón and parsley.

ROASTED HEIRLOOM TOMATO SAUCE

You read my Sardinian Meatball story and I promised Roasted Cherokee Purple Tomato Sauce. rs_sauce_detailToday I deliver, even though Cherokee Purple Tomatoes are not yet in season; you’ll be ready when they come. Actually, the recipe is for “Heirloom Tomatoes,” and these pictures show a mixed variety of heirlooms, but the Cherokee Purple, by themselves, are my favorite.

In July of 2009, Georgeanne Brennan, in a Special to The Chronicle, wrote an excellent story on various tomatoes and sauces that included Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sauce. She grows her own tomatoes, so she has plenty to deal with and experiment with. Like me, she likes making her own sauce:

“I like being able to use my own ready-made sauce. I don’t even thaw it. I just put the frozen block in a pan, along with about a quarter cup of water, cover the pan and simmer until the block has melted. Then I remove the cover, turn up the heat and cook until the sauce is the consistency I want, usually thick enough for me to trace a clean path across the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, with no sauce rushing to cover the path.

Ideally, my husband and I make and freeze enough tomato sauce to supply ourselves from late October through June, those months when tomatoes are out of season. We start making our sauce in mid-August, when the tomatoes are ripening in the full summer heat, and continue until the first freeze arrives and our tomato vines blacken and shrivel.”

But she grows her own tomatoes and was educated in France. I’m just a city-boy, buying my tomatoes at the Farmers Market or direct from farmers and picking up recipes and techniques as I go along. I’ve used the “bag and freeze” method she describes. I also like to store 3-cups of my sauce in Quart containers with lids that stack nicely in the freezer. They’re easy to open and pop into a pan for thawing. Last year, I tried canning, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Continue reading

Not Your Average Beans n Ham

Ham Loaf LO
White Beans with Celery
The cutest Cauliflower you’ve ever seen

b_caulif_detail We were getting ready for the first “regular” night of the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF54 or “The International”); we had been to Opening Night, Thursday, and it featured a party after with all the food you could eat… much of it good. The International runs for two weeks and most of the films occur before, during or after dinnertime, so we home cooks need to plan ahead… something easy that can be eaten without fuss.

On this night, a Friday, I planned leftover (LO) ham loaf with something. Perusing my ‘to cook’ files on the computer, I came across White Beans with Celery by Martha Rose Shulman who writes Recipes for Health in the New York Times. I thought I had cooked that, but there were no notes to prove it. In any case, I had a half-pound of flageolet beans and a big head of supermarket celery, so I went for it. I got four lovely tiny baby cauliflower from Dirty Girl Produce at the Market and they hadn’t yet found their way into our bellies. Those would be nice as a side dish.

It’s a whole day affair, what with the soaking of the beans, cooking of the beans and baking of the dish, but the active time is scant. Again, plan ahead for this dish:

11am beans in to soak
4pm ready to cook
5pm beans cooked
5:30 beans in oven
6:30 beans on table
8pm leave for Kabuki
9pm Meeks Cutoff (Carol)
9:30 The City Below (Marc)

I cooked the beans in plain water… the flageolets take only about 45 minutes. I hacked 5 cups of celery in about half inch pieces from the top of my head and carefully rinsed them. My time schedule worked just fine as I cooked the celery. That went in the baking dish, a soufflé dish. I lifted the beans from their liquid with a slotted spoon and mixed that together with the celery, mixed in my home made tomato sauce. It took all of the bean cooking water to cover the beans as directed and into the oven it went for an hour. Continue reading

FRESH PEA SOUP

English peas.JPGBy about this time of year, the English peas from Iacopi farm are abundant, piled high in their brown paper bags at the market, the shells bright pea green and firm to the touch;  just squeeze one and it will snap open to reveal rows of perfect peas inside. This is the time when I MUST make fresh pea soup. I’ve been working on the perfect fresh pea soup for some time. After a few tries, I found one from The Washington Post that made some sense to me.
“A surprising amount of flavor can be coaxed from spent pea pods by simmering them in water.”
Why wouldn’t anybody think of that?

I made my first batch from that recipe. It called for 1 pound peas in the pod, pods scrubbed. That’s not very many peas. My Iacopi bag is 2 1/4 pounds of peas-in-the-pod = 2 cups or 12 ounces by weight, shelled.

“In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the empty pea pods, scallions, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer briskly for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the broth; you should have at least 3 cups.”

So I put all my shells, etc, in a big pot… it took 16 cups of water to cover. [Revelation: I don’t have to use all the pods for the pod stock] So… I reduced the stock for about 15 minutes after removing the pods. Otherwise, I pretty much doubled the recipe. The resulting soup (eaten warm after cooking) was a little thin for my taste, but tasted good, with a nice, bright fresh pea flavor. As a result, I re-wrote the recipe for future use.

Since I’m not a pro test kitchen, I don’t make batches and batches of a dish when developing or refining a recipe. Therefore I made good notes and as we were in the mood for fresh pea soup, I would make some modifications and more notes. I adjusted quantities of each ingredient and added potatoes for thickening. I spared some peas from the blender to add interest to the finished soup.

Finally, I have what I consider to be a perfect fresh pea soup recipe.

w_fresh_pea_soup

The soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled; I prefer warm.

FRESH PEA SOUP
Adapted from a recipe that appeared in The Washington Post, April, 2005 where it was
adapted from “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen,” by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
About 10 cups

Ingredients:

1 bag peas from Iacopi Farm, about 2 1/4 pounds in-the-pod = about 2 cups shelled, scrubbed
6 scallions (white and light-green parts), chopped
sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
10 cups water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cups pod broth
1 cup potatoes, diced to about “pea size”
4 cups chopped tender green lettuce leaves, preferably Boston lettuce
creme fraiche or sour cream, for optional garnish
Finely torn mint leaves, for optional garnish

Directions:
Shell the peas and reserve both peas and pods.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring about 10 cups of the empty pea pods, the scallions, salt and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer briskly for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the broth; you should have about 6 cups.

Melt the butter in the empty saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, salt and the sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the 5 cups broth and the potatoes, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly for 2 minutes, add the peas and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add the lettuce and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove about 3/4 cup of the peas and potatoes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until very smooth. Add back the peas and potatoes. Serve warm or, if desired, cover and refrigerate until chilled through.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls. If desired, top with a dollop of creme fraiche and/or scattering of mint.

beet snack

…or whatever

scrub beetsb_snack
place on foil and drizzle with water, olive oil, salt and pepper
wrap
roast beets 400°F for 50 minutes or so
cool
peel with a paper towel
store inna jar in the fridge

take out a beet
slice in a dish
drizzle with vinegar or lemon juice
drizzle with olive oil
salt
pepper

eat with a fork

yum

got some nice fat carrots?
same deal

beets in foil just out of the oven

beets in foil just out of the oven

roasted beets, these are formanova or cylindra

roasted beets, these are formanova or cylindra

peel with a paper towel... with luck, the skin will come off in one piece

peel with a paper towel... with luck, the skin will come off in one piece

composed salad of chioggia beets, tokyo turnips, snap peas

composed salad of chioggia beets, tokyo turnips, snap peas

roasted beets and carrots

roasted beets and carrots

One Pot Cod Left Over

…and a beet stack.

Three days later:

c_LO_cod_served

“She says she does a smaller version for, “herself and a friend,” but I prefer to do the whole recipe using less fish, then I can eat the leftovers with sausage or something as a change of pace.”

From my original One Pot Cod dinner I had one piece of cod left, plus enough vegetables for two. If you look at the plate upper left, you will see shrimp served with the vegetables for Carol.

c_beet_stack

Saturday being market day, I had some nice fresh roasted beets. They would provide a nice contrast to the meal. (It’s really hard to take a good photograph of red beets. They just suck up the light.) I sliced a spring onion thin and marinated the slices in a tablespoon or so of verjus while I was heating the one pot cod. When it was about ready, I sliced a beet, keeping it together, put the bottom slice on a plate, a slice of onion on top of that, slice of beet, slice of onion, etc, repeat. Over that, I spooned Marie’s Dijon Herb Potato Salad Dressing until the beet stack looked pretty.

c_beet_stack_dressed

Just right.

Everyday Soup

Jack Soup… Fat Burning if you want it… and a protein to cancel the healthy soup.

Eric left a comment on I Cooked Topchii Ukrainian Borscht:

Eric:
Cabbage soup is now a hot topic on the NYTimes web site. Have you ever done an Eats article on Jack Nicklaus’s cabbage soup? Do you still make it?
Marcus:
I haven’t made the Jack Nicklaus soup for years, but it was published in the eats iv installment of the original eats4one. Actual title: Barbara Nicklaus Fat Burning Cabbage Soup… For Jack I gleaned the recipe from Sports Illustrated April 1996. It was part of a cabbage soup diet where one would eat the soup every day for a week along with fruit and vegetables. Beef was allowed on Friday and Saturday. It’s actually good soup and I did the diet once or twice, but eating the same soup every day is a chore – even when it’s good. Patricia Unterman wrote a “cleaned up” version in the SF Chronicle. Now that you’ve got me started, maybe I’ll make some soup and do an eats treatment. dad

j_served_detail
It took a couple weeks to get around to it, but I made the soup. It seems that my fabulous Frenched Pork Chops from GG Meat were in the freezer. Not only that, but Carol was in the process of being “crowned,” so soup would be good for that.

The “Jack Soup” as I call it was meant to be eaten every day for a week, so it makes a prodigious amount. I’m not going to eat it for a week, so I revised the recipe to scale it back. I also substituted a couple ingredients, based on my current tastes, but I kept the Lipton Onion Soup Mix — gotta have some ties to authenticity.

So here’s what I did:

Barbara Nicklaus Fat Burning Cabbage Soup… For Jack
Gleaned from Sports Illustrated April 1996; as I cooked it February 2011

1 large can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
2 leeks or 6 green onions
about 2 quarts beef, chicken or vegetable broth
1 package Lipton onion soup mix
1 small head cabbage (about 14 ounces)
1/2 pound frozen green beans or fresh (not canned)
1 green pepper (Jacques says peel your green pepper)
1 pound carrots
1/2 bunch celery
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

Cut vegetables into medium pieces (bite sized).
Put tomatoes in a pot and break with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add everything else to the pot. Season with salt, pepper, curry or if desired, hot sauce or chili flakes.
Boil fast for 10 minutes, reduce to simmer, cook until tender.
Makes about 14 cups Continue reading

Poached Egg on Greens

Saturday – After Market – Breakfast

Breakfast on Saturday is often pretty late, for breakfast. I could call it brunch, but I think of brunch as going out to a nice – usually special – place with Carol. On most Saturdays, I get up, have some juice, go to the Farmers Market, put away the stuff and then think about breakfast. On this day, I started out wanting a poached egg. With what?

beet greens - greens and stems

beet greens - greens and stems

I had just trimmed the tops off of a bunch of tiny red beets and a bunch of little yellow beets. The greens look good and there really aren’t enough for a real meal. I trimmed and washed and put the beets in the oven to roast and chopped the stems off the greens.
There are two basic ways to cook greens.
Saute in a pan with plenty of olive oil and the water clinging to the washed greens. Call that wilted… takes about 10 minutes. Splash in some vinegar to finish.
bg_greens_in_pot Brown some bacon in a pot with a little olive oil. Add a chopped shallot and a bit of garlic. Cook soft. Add the greens, about 3/4 cup water, a tablespoon of sugar and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover and braise for about 10 minutes. Splash on vinegar and let it sit while you poach your egg.

I did the latter this time.

By the time I did all that, the beets were roasted. I hadn’t planned on that, but hey, now I can have a couple of beets with their greens.

roasted beets

roasted beets

I don’t poach eggs often. I should, it’s EZ quick and good. I had to ask Carol a bunch of questions:
Which pan? The Revere stainless that you always complain about cleaning up after I poach my eggs.
How much water? About 3/4 full.
Just bring to a shimmer? Yes… don’t let it boil.
Cover? Yes.
Leave the heat on? I turn off after about a minute.
How long to cook? Three to four minutes. Take the egg out with a slotted spoon.
I was going to cook three minutes, but I was peeling a beet, so it went to 3 1/2 or so. Too done for my taste, but OK.

Saturday Breakfast... Yum.

Saturday Breakfast... Yum.

Greens
Adapted from Simply Recipes,. Use with any kind of greens Continue reading

Canning Tomatoes

“Last tomatoes of the season,” Julia wrote in the October 28th edition of Mariquita Truck Farm newsletter. Pick-up was at the nearby Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason, so I got right on it and ordered.

20 pounds flat of San Marzano
12 pounds flat of Early Girl

Ordering the last tomatoes of the season is not an unusual thing for me. But canning is a departure from my normal process.

t_jars_o_tomatoes

So why did I get into this canning thing?

A few reasons. I like to make tomato sauce when the tomatoes are at the peak of season, and freeze the sauce for winter and spring. This is good; but I have limited freezer capacity, and when I use the sauce I have to plan ahead for thawing.

t_kyiv_jar

Canning is totally new to me. My mother and grandmother canned tomatoes and lots of other vegetables, but I never paid much attention; everybody canned back then. Son Eric and Alison can 75 or more quarts of tomatoes a year. Brian’s (new) wife, Natasza and her mother, Ella can most everything from the garden at their dacha outside Kyiv in Ukraine. We visited recently, and noticed beautiful jars of tomatoes and such stored in nooks and crannies around their flat.

Once I picked up my tomatoes I spent a day researching recipes and buying equipment; jars and even a canning kettle. I dug out our book on home canning and fired off emails to Eric and Alison asking for tips or advice.

When I jump in, I go in all the way. No matter the initial investment in research and equipment, it’s way cheaper than a freezer.

t_equip_run

The weekend was consumed by cooking and partying for Games 3 and 4 of the World Series: SF Giants vs. Texas Rangers, and of course Sunday NFL.

t_practice_jarMonday, I went into tomato canning anxiety — the canning kettle package urged use of the Ball recipes and procedures for canning and preserving. It’s not like home canning is a mystery, but I’ve never done it before, thus, read research and generally go into paralysis by analysis. And I couldn’t start canning and have to finish after the Giants game started at 4:58pm. But Monday wasn’t a total waste. I made a trial quart of peeled Early Girls to see how they fit in the jar. Having experienced that, I made juice with those tomatoes. It tasted pretty good, but that’s a lot of work for tomato juice to drink with breakfast. Continue reading