As I was doing a bit or organizing in my pantry today I thought of Gollum asking Bilbo, “what’s it gots in it’s pocketses”? Well many a thing can hide in my pantry for unknown lengths of time so I decided to pick a hidden item to do a new recipe with. Some times I like to go to the grocery store just to find something fun to cook, but today it was going to come from the pantry. What I found that I thought needed to come out and play was a tiny bit of whole wheat shell pasta that wouldn’t amount to an entree, but could be my lunch special. One item I do have in abundance is fresh oregano since it survived the winter and exploded into new growth in April. I have never had pesto made with oregano, but figured this particular type of oregano would work well in pesto. It has more of a minty taste to it than a pungent flavor typical of fresh oregano. I think it could be Greek Oregano, but it’s plant identification marker has long since disappeared. So the lunch special for one was shaping up, Whole Wheat Pasta in Oregano Pesto. I had some pine nuts in the freezer that were still quite fresh, and some farmer’s market asparagus in the fridge from yesterday’s shopping downtown for the dish. I figured that the asparagus would be a nice touch.
I confess to having pesto on the brain since I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Marge Perry’s Sweet and Savory Life, this morning that included a pesto recipe. That recipe was quite different in that it used linguine, basil, spinach etc that I did not use. I probably would have done her recipe except my basil is not in production mode yet.
I put this all together in about 25 minutes including boiling the pasta, cleaning the oregano, and food processing the pesto. Not to mention the distraction of making sure Tucker, our 8 week old German Shepard puppy wasn’t getting into trouble. I had fresh greens from the garden to serve as a perfect base. I set up for the photo part of the gig and, after shooting the photos sat down to sample my prize. It was quite good, but next time I will put some cilantro in with the oregano for a bit more herbal punch. Maybe even a jalapeno for fun. It’s just so much fun to experiment with all the amazing choices we have at our local grocery stores and farmers markets. From Fast and Furious Cook’s kitchen I wish you all a wonderful summer of experimenting with something new and fun.
1 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 fresh garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix parmesan cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lime juice, salt and half of the oregano in a food processor. Scrape with spatula and add the rest of the oregano. Mix well, scrape and mix a bit more until all the pine nuts and broken up well.
Serve with your favorite pasta, hot or cold.
I went to one of my favorite foodie havens(Talula’s Table) on my way to a cooking demo at The Woodlands at Phillips Mushrooms. Talula’s is well known for their combo food market and restaurant. I was stopping by to get their french baquette for the cooking demo but was snagged by the free sample of the 5 year aged gouda cheese while browsing. This stuff has seriously great taste that makes you want more. The gouda went well on top of my Maitake mushroom bruschetta at Phillip’s, but I had a good amount of it left over. I pondered what to do with it over the last two days and at about 5 this morning while laying awake in bed I got inspired to make a special breakfast using the gouda.
I had some Kale leftover from my brussel sprout and kale salad, and remembered reading about kale for breakfast on www.greennapkinnutrtion.com. I also had some beautiful oyster mushrooms from Phillip’s so I sauteed the mushrooms with 10/15 sweet yellow onions in garlic infused olive oil.
When the onions and mushrooms were halfway cooked I added the kale and cooked it for a few more minutes.
I also had some nice Wisconsin Cheddar Sourdough dinner rolls from Talula’s that I sliced to a half inch thick cut and popped them in the toaster for the base. I put the mushroom and kale mix on top of the bread that had an over easy egg set on top of it. I placed shaved gouda on top of the egg and broiled it for about a minute and a half. I cooked up some home fried potatoes and sliced an avocado and orange for garnish to round it all out. The result? An amazing breakfast for a good start to the weekend.
If you want to give this a try here’s the basics:
A handful of kale
a handful of oyster mushrooms, or whatever you have available
about a third cup of diced sweet onion
garlic infused olive oil
toast of some type for the base
and a willingness to experiment!
Spring has sprung in Baltimore. After months of cold days and freezing nights the forecast for the next five days has us reversing course in a big way. The overnight lows for the next several days are higher than the daytime highs have been for months. With night time lows in the mid 60’s I am getting my vegie garden going. Daytime highs are going to be in the 80‘s tomorrow if the weather guessers are right. Soon my Rocky Top lettuce blend will be feeding us amazing fresh salads. The peas won’t be far behind. Then in June the first fresh salmon from Cordova Alaska’s Copper River will show up. It won’t be until July that the first tomatoes from my garden will make an appearance on the table. About that time Moore’s Orchard across the street from me will be selling the first of the season peaches. Ah, I can just close my eyes and taste the first juicy peach already. But hey, it’s April and that means Asparagus is in season and showing up on my grocery store shelf. This is not the stuff from Peru or other points south. This is North American asparagus and I’m ready to buy some. Last night I made one of my favorite meals. It was Baked Salmon, with a side of Oven Baked Asparagus and Quinoa Pilaf. This is a simple,healthy meal that takes just 20-25 minutes from start to finish. If you subscribe to my Enewsletter on my blog you will receive two of recipes, Quinoa and Asparagus) that are not featured here so please sign up as it costs you nothing but a couple minutes of your time. For now however I will share with you the salmon recipe. I hope you enjoy it.
Baked Salmon Filets
1 pound salmon filets skinned and cut into 4 portions
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
In a individual baking dish or cookie sheet place salmon skin side down. Rub salmon filets with oil, then drizzle lemon juice over them. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the filets and bake for 10-15 minutes or until salmon flakes when pressed on. Don’t overcook.
I like to add a touch( 1/2 teaspoon) dried or fresh thyme for a nice herbed flavoring.
A bit of garlic powder is a nice touch too. A little goes a long way.
I highly recommend Alaska salmon over farmed salmon when available.
There are cooking blogs out in the blogosphere that have mostly high fat, high calorie recipes on their blogs, but not me. However, I do realize the value of a special occasion meal, and since last night was our wedding anniversary we did it up! Now over the years we would sometimes go out for our anniversary to a special restaurant. Most of the time we prefer to stay at home and have some sort of lobster dish. Last night I bought 3 live lobsters and brought them home for a feast. I decided I’d do lobster two ways. First was the old standby of Lobster Newburg, a wonderful preparation with lobster sauteed in clarified butter with minced onions and mushrooms. It is thickened with roux, then the milk and sherry are added. A touch of ground white pepper, and nutmeg finish it off perfectly. To this dish I then added butter poached lobster as a garnish. This is a way of cooking lobster I learned from the book “Soul of a Chef” where chef Thomas Keller took up about a third of the book, and was highlighted in his French Laundry restaurant. Wow, it was good! To round out the plate I steamed whole brussel sprouts, and made a nice rice pilaf with a touch of saffron for flavor and color. I also served a small dish of corn relish for a mini salad course. The Roederer Estate sparkling wine was a perfect match, for both the main dish and the store bought fruit tart and cherry tart. All in all I was very pleased and will remember the evening fondly. And that my friends is what special occasion meals are all about! Great food is part of our lives, and one of the things we remember from special occasions. So by all means enjoy the good stuff, just don’t eat like this every night if you want to be healthy and active.
Fast and Furious Newburg Sauce for Two
1/3 cup white mushrooms diced small
1/4 cup yellow onion diced small
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 cup whole milk
dash of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a 1 quart pot saute the onions in the clarified butter on medium low for 3 minutes then add the mushrooms stirring often,(about every 30 seconds). Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes on medium low to cook out most of the moisture in the mushrooms stirring often. Add the flour to make a roux and cook 4 more minutes on low. Whisk in milk and turn heat up to medium stirring slowly but constantly until the sauce just starts to bubble and simmer. Add pepper, nutmeg and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cover until needed. Enough sauce for two servings, maybe even three.
For the lobsters.
I use an 8 quart pot to precook my lobsters in, but as long as you can get a lid on you can use a smaller pot for this step. Fill the pot about one third full of water, cover, and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil drop the lobster in head first, belly up. Cook for 3-4 minutes on high heat and remove to cold water to stop the cooking process. Repeat for each lobster. After lobsters cool , the meat should come out easily when the shells are cracked open. Cut lobster tail into bite sized pieces, and leave claws whole. Dry the lobster pieces with paper towels and saute in clarified butter in a medium sized saute pan on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Drain lobster butter off into a bowl to save for bread dipping(yum!). Add Newburg Sauce to the pan and heat just until it starts to simmer. Pour into preheated baking dishes if you have them and serve with sliced French bagguette slices.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
* I used three 1 1/2 pound lobsters for this dish, and had a bit of lobster meat leftover for lobster hash the following morning.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. I have heard this many times throughout my life, and believe it’s true. Take any favorite restaurant that you have been to and liked for years as an example. You might out of the goodness in your heart recommend that restaurant to a friend only to find out later that they didn’t think it was any good. It doesn’t matter that you have been there several times and always had a good meal there. We just don’t all enjoy the same food, movies, books, etc. Good thing there are options in the food world. While some restaurants may say on their menus,”No Substitutions Please”, I encourage substitutions. Take this standby of American, and Italian cuisine, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. In this following recipe I encourage tweaking it. You could take the one pound of ground beef and replace it with:
1/2 pound ground beef, and 1/2 pound Italian Sausage
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound of sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground lamb
You could also take the 1 tablespoon of mixed Italian herbs and replace it with:
1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, and 3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil in the last 5 minutes of cooking
3 tablespoons of fresh minced oregano, and 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
The options are almost endless, and fun to play around with. That is the reason I put ingredient options with many of my recipes. I want you to have fun playing around with a recipe, and tweak to your taste. Many of my main dishes can be vegetarian, vegan or meaty. So please enjoy this classic comfort food by inserting or deleting ingredients until you find what works best for you and let me know how it turned out.
30 Minute Spaghetti With Meat Sauce
1 cup diced onion
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon oil
1 pound 85% or leaner ground beef
2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper, optional
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
In a 2 quart pot saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes stirring or until soft on medium heat.
Add ground beef and turn up heat to medium high stirring every 30 seconds or so.
Turn off heat and drain the fat. Return to stove on medium high heat and add the rest of the ingredients. When it starts to simmer turn down heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
*Ground beef can be omitted, and substituted with ground turkey, ground bison, mushrooms quartered or sliced, or even ground pork.
*Fresh herbs can be used, but be sure to add them towards the last 5 minutes so the delicate flavor doesn’t cook out of them. I like fresh oregano, thyme and basil for this type of recipe using about 2 teaspoons of each basil and oregano, but only 1 teaspoon of thyme.
*Diced green or red bell peppers are a nice addition. Just saute with the onions and garlic.
*This is a quick recipe. Be sure to have your water starting to heat up at the same time you start the sauce. You can cook this longer and more flavor will develop, but it’s plenty good in just 30 minutes.
*2-4 tablespoons of tomato paste can be added for a thicker sauce.
I just got back from visiting my parents in Grand Junction, Colorado, and I noticed the health food store business is alive and well in this small market. It may be because Coloradans are often at the top of the list of healthiest Americans, or it could be more broad based. Either way there was enough demand for Sprouts, a natural health food type grocer, to come into town with a spiffy new store. Here on the East Coast I have seen a large and modern Whole Foods store built not too far from my Baltimore home lately. This new Whole Foods in Pennsylvania is quite a large store compared to the ones in the Baltimore area. It leads me to believe this progression of consumers wanting more natural, less processed food is gaining momentum. Could it be that we are waking up and realizing our American diet is not worth it? After all, Twinkies are no longer being made last I heard. I have noticed these healthier stores are never empty when I go shopping, and sometimes so busy I have a hard time navigating around all the shoppers. I think that if this trends continues we will have more access to healthy choices both at grocery stores and restaurants. I buy the bulk of my groceries at stores that carry the widest variety of organic produce, and makes an effort to have it be as fresh as possible. When I go out to eat I appreciate a restaurant that gets as much of it’s food close to home, likes organic suppliers, and highlights the season. So be on the lookout for this new type of grocery store that has a reason to keep you eating healthy, and looking good.Here at Fast and Furious Central I’ll do my part to provide you with fast, healthy recipes to get you in your kitchen whipping up the good stuff. This week’s recipe is a very fast, about 10 minutes, way of eating loads of vegies, or can be tweaked to add meat if you like. I hope you like it!
Thai Broccolli Rice Bowl
1 teaspoon oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cups broccoli florets
4-6 oz button mushrooms quartered or halved if larger than golfball size
2 stalks celery sliced diagonally
1 carrot sliced diagonally
6 oz lowfat coconut milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons Thai green chili paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Heat oil in a wok or large saute pan over high heat just until it starts to smoke, see note*. Add garlic and onion and cook for 30 seconds. Add broccoli and mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes stirring often. Add rest of the ingredients and stir in the green chili paste well cooking another 3-5 minutes. Serve over rice. Serves four as a side, or two as a main.
This dish cooks fast so be sure and start your rice ahead of time.
Be sure not to heat pan in the beginning if it is a teflon or non-stick type pan as some of them give off toxic fumes!
Add your favorite meat, or tofu to make this a main dish.
This was fun to create today after reading a piece by mynutritionist.com about the many good and interesting qualities of chocolate. Who knew beans loved chocolate? Well they do! Try this recipe if you are brave in the kitchen. It’s really not a weird tasting dish at all. See alternate fast method using canned beans instead of dried beans in the notes. This fast method takes about 20 minutes instead of 2-3 hours.
Chili Molé Beans
1 cup dry beans, kidney or christmas pole limas
6-8 cups of water
1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 2/3 cup
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook onion in 6 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes then add beans,salt, cumin, chili powder and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook for 2 hours. Add tomatoes, and cocoa powder and continue cooking on low until beans are soft.
*Molé is pronounced mo lay.
*A bit of steamed brown rice goes well with this dish, and makes it a meal.
*Faster and Furious method is to use canned beans:
1/2 onion chopped, about 2/3 cup
1 clove garlic minced
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 15 ounce can of kidney beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1tablespoon cocoa powder
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook onion and garlic on medium heat in a 1 1/2 quart pot with just enough water to cover for about 7 minutes, or until soft. Add rest of ingredients, increase heat to high, then reduce heat and cook simmering for 10 minutes and serve. It’s better if you can let it simmer 20 minutes.
For many of the last thirty plus years people have asked me, “why don’t you open a restaurant”? My quick answer is always, “because I have never wanted to”. In Anthony Bourdain’s excellent and entertaining book Kitchen Confidential one of my favorite chapters was about why anyone would want to open a restaurant. They are full of challenges like, getting and keeping good employees, keeping theft to a minimum, plate and glass breakage, leases that can go way up after you have finally established a good reputation, food spoilage, and the list goes on and on. Last night while my wife and I attempted to dine at a new Baltimore restaurant,Ouzo Bay, that is receiving great reviews we almost got to try it. We chose the bar for our dinner because the dinning room was booked for most of the night. We were seated and got our drink orders in and requested a menu, which we received. Things were looking good, and I went over to the fresh fish display that was full of great looking items. When I got back to my bar stool we were informed that the restaurant had to close the kitchen due to the hood fan belt breaking and there was no ventilation. At that point I reminded my wife why I never wanted to own a restaurant. Here all these employees and clients had high expectations for the night just to have it all end abruptly at 6:15pm. Lucky for us there was a good plan “B” by going just down the street to Lebanese Taverna, and got in just before it was full. We had a fine meal indeed. It was made all the more wonderful because we got in and got fed. So for all of you out there that think owning a restaurant sounds great, think again, but please support those brave souls that do open a restaurant and make our world a better place by doing so.
It’s snowing, and blowing outside today. On my morning walk with my dog Miss Vixen at 6:45 am the snow covered the ground in a weird grayish white color almost the same as the color of the sky. It had an odd crunch to it like walking in styrofoam beads. Even now as I write it’s not quite a white colored snow. Nothing like the snows of my past life in Colorado. There is no doubt that this winter in Baltimore is much different than last year when it was so mild my parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and rosemary made it through into spring to burst forth in tremendous growth. Now all I have left is the rosemary bush outside in my raised garden beds and one thyme plant that I ripped out and put in the garage in a pot by the window. These are two of my favorite herbs, and I’m glad to have them hang on a bit longer. Last night I put together a roast chicken with rosemary, carrots, onions and celery. For a starch I tossed in 5 golf ball sized organic Yukon Gold potatoes. While this is not a quick cooking dish it is perfect for a late afternoon when you have ten minutes to put it together, and want the leftovers it provides for the next days salad or sandwiches. I really like that I could walk away from it for an hour and a half, then come back and steam some broccoli to go along with it for an almost perfect meal. Tossing the steamed broccoli with sauteed button mushrooms added a nice touch to a great winters meal. Here is the simple recipe.
1 frying or roasting chicken 4-6 lbs
oil for rubbing the exposed topside of the chicken, or spray oil
2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary
2 carrots peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
2 stalks celery sliced in 1/2 pieces
1 small yellow onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cloves of fresh garlic cut into slivers
salt and pepper
Rinse the chicken under cold water then dry. Set on top of onions, celery, and carrots in a roasting pan. Cut little slits in top side of chicken and insert garlic cloves. Rub or spray oil on chicken and then sprinkle rosemary salt and pepper. Place potatoes around chicken. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour and forty five minutes to 2 hours. Or until a fast read thermometer reaches 165 when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh.
Note: If your potatoes are bigger than golf ball size either parboil them for about 7-10 minutes then add to the roasting pan, or cut them into smaller pieces. I like the look of a whole potato with this dish.
This goes great with a Pinot Noir if you like red wines or a Chardonnay if whites are to your liking.
So there I was, out and about running errands before lunch wondering about eating out or at home. Since I am leaving on a nine day vacation to Ecuador in two days I thought it was best to use up stuff in the fridge. I hate throwing any food away that is still useable so I peered into the fridge and what did I see? There was cut up Delicata Squash, a sweet potato hanging on from a grocery trip long ago in a far away place, one part of an onion in one of those onion storage devices that looks like an onion, four little garlic cloves in olive oil, and last but not least there was a beautiful red bell pepper. Now to live up to my name fast and furious cook this had to be quick. I searched my memory for any such combination with no results, and formulated a new recipe in my head. Since I had some Andouille Chicken sausage in the freezer I grabbed one and sliced it frozen, and thus began this recipe.
1 cup Delicata squash cut into one inch cubes
1 cup sweet potato cut into one inch cubes
1 red bell pepper cut into one inch cubes
1/3 cup of yellow onion chopped
1 tablespoon garlic infused oil
4 roasted garlic cloves
1-2 Andouille sausage links sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients in a mixing bowl then in the upper third of the oven broil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake until soft, about 15-20 minutes.
This is hearty enough for a main dish, or leave out the sausage and serve as a vegetable dish. Serves two, but easily doubled.