Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Smokin' Chicken

Bummer! Due to “inclement” weather, mainly THE WIND, no kayaking this weekend. Saturday’s winds were 25-30 mph and Sunday in the morning we had rain, of which we could use as it has not rained in weeks but, it has to do it the day we plan to head out on the water! So instead, we fired up the ol’ smoker again! We cannot kayak, but we sure can eat!

I must tell you, if you do not have a smoker, you might just want to think about investing in one. They are very inexpensive and put out some pretty darn good food. The nice thing about them, they can be used as a grill or smoker! One of my favorite books to go along with my smoker is “Smoke and Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. They have lots of great recipes for rubs, mops, marinades, side dishes, desserts and a few good drink recipes to sip as you are smokin’ your dinner!

I wonder what these two birds are saying to each other before the lights go out and the heat cranks up? Whatever it was must have been good as these birds were terrific!

I was reading “Smoke and Spice” the other night and came upon “Chicken on a Throne”! This is a classic recipe as you grill or smoke your chicken atop a can of beer! Now how cool is that! The night before smoking the birds I made a rub from paprika, black pepper, salt, sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and a nice heap of cayenne pepper. Next I made an injection liquid from beer, coconut oil, cider vinegar and some of the rub. I injected the birds and then rubbed them down with the rub mixture, sealed those guys in plastic bags and into the fridge for the night.
Next afternoon we cranked up the smoker with charcoal and hickory wood blocks that we soaked for a few hours, opened 2 beers, drank one and then divided the beer between the two cans. To that I added a chopped onion, chopped garlic and a bit of cider vinegar. Placed chickens “on their thrones”, lid on and lights out for the birds, for about 4 hours.

Birds are complete and resting on their thrones in the kitchen awaiting the platter where they will rest and then be consumed! These chickens were smoky, but not heavily, and so moist and tender. No dry chicken at all!

With the smoked chicken I served a simple potato salad, a cucumber salad and a warm dish of:

Black Eyed Peas & Tomatoes

1 Can of Black Eyed Peas, rinsed and drained
1 Medium onion chopped
2-3 Cloves of garlic chopped
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
2 Teaspoons of dried thyme
1 Heaping tablespoon of fresh thyme (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice
½ cup of white wine
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1-2 Cayenne peppers chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat adding the onion and cayenne pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, and thyme and stir for another minute. Now add the tomatoes and wine. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Add the black eyed peas and parsley, cook until heated through. Discard bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste.
This is a tasty easy side dish that goes well with any of your favorite BBQ recipes.

Now our week moves along with plans to attempt kayaking again this weekend! We will get there!!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mapping Out The Route!

It has been an uneventful week in the cooking department, except for this beauty!

Mike over at Mike’s Table featured on a post last week the most handsome and succulent looking duck – I had to have one! But, instead of roasting ours, we pulled out the smoker and smoked this baby for about 4 hours. Need I tell you how it tasted!!!

Now the eventful part of this week has been planning a kayak trip for the weekend. It is the time of year that is perfect for kayaking as the water has warmed up and the daytime temps are staying comfortable so you do not feel like a duck being roasted out there in the full sunshine! The only thing we are watching is the wind. It is quite a challenge to try to paddle with 25 mph winds slapping you in the face. Great if your back is to the wind and you are only going one way, but the trips are out and back so you will be facing the wind at some point. Yes I know, don’t be a wimp, but I am. I go for the pleasure, not the exercise! So today I am keeping my fingers crossed that the winds lay down tomorrow so we can head out early. The weather is so great here this time of year that I find it hard to stay indoors!

Not only have I been studying my kayak book, but have directed my attention to the native trees and shrubs in the Florida Keys. I have a wee bit of space on our property so I plan to plant some natives. Also, since I am heavily involved with the Key West Garden Club, I am attempting to learn all about keeping the native foliage in our area!

So there you have it! I plan to be back in the kitchen again this week with cookbook in hand and, hopefully, a successful recipe and book review to share with you.
Have a great weekend and do not forget to have a nice glass of wine to start the end of your day!


Monday, April 21, 2008

My 10th Book Review With A Bowl of Soup!

A favorite book of mine for many years, as it is all about gardening AND cooking, is “The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden, Creative Gardening for the Adventurous Cook” by David Hirsch. David’s book is well rounded as it gets you involved in the entire process of cooking from planting to putting the food on the table. David’s first encounter with the restaurant was as a gardener who supplied them with fresh basil. David eventually began cooking at the restaurant but still supplied the restaurant with herbs, flowers, and rare specialty produce as organic gardening is one of his passions.
In his chapter on vegetables, he has a section for each veggie. In that section he tells a bit about that veggie, how to start it from seed or planting, cultural requirements, harvest, and culinary tips. He has a wonderful chapter on herbs sharing with us how to grow, culinary tips, and some interesting ways to use herbs besides in food, such as potpourri recipes. His next chapter focuses on edible flowers. It is packed full of information on how to grow these flowers and culinary tips on how to use them. David’s next chapter delves into the design of your garden. Lot’s of great info in this chapter on patterns, plant selection, and maintenance. Chapter 5 gets into the technique portion, such as soils, mulch, seed starting, buying the plants, transplanting, bug and disease control and much more.
One of my favorite chapters, of course, is the one that has the recipes. I want to share with you one of the soups that I adapted from David’s selection.

Portuguese Kale Soup

1 can of great northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 fresh cayenne peppers, finely chopped
1 medium potato chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 parsnip chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes, drained
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 large bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh oregano chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
10-12 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil drained and chopped
1 bunch of fresh kale (about 4 cups) chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oil in a pot, add the fennel seeds and stir for a minute, then add the onion and cayenne pepper. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic stirring for another minute. Now add the potato, carrot and parsnip. Sauté these for a couple of minutes then add your tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and oregano. Simmer all of these for about 10 minutes.
Now it is time to add your sun-dried tomatoes, kale and beans.
Simmer all of these for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add your salt and pepper to your liking.

This is a very simple wholesome soup that would be great for a quick lunch or perfect for dinner adding a crunchy side salad and a loaf of crusty country bread with dipping oil on the side. And hey, don’t forget a glass of your favorite wine to make this dinner complete!

For all of you spring gardeners and adventurous cooks, I highly recommend picking up a copy of David’s book to kick off your spring and summer growing season!


Friday, April 18, 2008

What Is This Dish, With Wine!

Can you guess what this is??? No, not pizza, which it sorta looks like. OK, I will tell you. It is the best vegetarian lasagna that I have ever made! No kidding! I know, I know, another lasagna dish. But you have to see the ingredients! Mike said, “This even has beans in it!” I was having a non-exciting afternoon and was contemplating what to have for dinner. I am tired of red meat, already had my fish fixes for the week, I needed a boost of fresh veggies. So I headed to the market and picked up fresh veggies! Result:

Vegetarian Lasagna

Loads of garlic, chopped
1 onion chopped
Coconut Oil
1 small zucchini chopped
1 small yellow squash chopped
8 oz. (one pack) of cremini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced, and sautéed in butter
1 can of white beans, I used Great Northern, drained and rinsed
1 bunch of kale, chopped and cooked in veggie broth till wilted
1 small bunch of asparagus tuff ends cut off and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 big bunch of fresh oregano or 1 heaping teaspoon of dried
2 cayenne peppers chopped
1-2 carrots chopped
A splash of white wine
Lasagna noodles
Lots of mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
A nice hunk of Manchango cheese grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Your favorite tomato based pasta sauce

Heat a nice glug of oil in your pan; add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper. Sauté a few minutes, add the carrot and asparagus and sauté about 5 minutes. Then add the oregano, zucchini and squash. Salt and pepper to taste. You want to cook all of these veggies until almost done, but still a bit crunchy as they will cook again in the oven. If they seem to be getting dry in the pan, like mine did, I added about ¼ cup of the wine I was drinking while preparing!
Cook your noodles
A bit of sauce
½ of the Kale and beans
Manchango Cheese
A bit of sauce
Your sautéed veggies
A bit of sauce
Rest of the kale
Loads of mozzarella cheese
A hefty sprinkling of parmesan cheese

Pop that baby into a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes or till the cheese is nice and browned. Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Oh my gosh, heaven from one dish! I served a small Caesar salad aside, as this is Mike’s favorite and a loaf of 7 grain bread with bowls of olive oil to dip.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but actually it is not. I was surprised that I had it all together and in the oven in under an hour. Well worth it! Just look at that kale and beans!

What did we have to drink with this delicious dish? Some delicious wines! Mike had his favorite Cabernet, Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon and I had a thirst quenching crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Monkey Bay! Both wines were great to sip before dinner and paired well with the lasagna!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Has Spring Arrived In Your Garden?

We come from the

earth, we return to the

earth, and in between

we garden.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wine, Crab Cakes, All In Key West!

Warning! The photos you are about to view are real. I did not even get to use any fancy props like bowls, napkins or perfect lighting. What you are viewing is a mighty tasty dinner that we had last night that I would like to share with you.

Crab Cakes! Spotted them on the front cover of Cooking Light Magazine this month. So, of course, I got an immediate craving for them. I dug into my recipe box and found my favorite way to prepare them. Most recipes are pretty much the same and I guess mine is also. But…they are delicious!!!! Just look how those cakes flaked apart with the crab pieces still intact!

Debs Crab Cakes

I use the crab that is not in a can but in a container at the fish counter of your favorite store. Warning! It is not cheap, but if you are going to make good crab cakes, it is well worth the investment!

8 oz. of crab meat
¼ cup of mayo
1 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
A generous couple of shakes of your favorite hot sauce
1 egg white
1 heaping teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
2-3 green onions finely chopped
Panko (Chinese Bread Crumbs)
Coconut oil for frying

Mix together all but the crab and panko. Carefully mix in by hand the crab. Yes, use your hands as any utensil seems to kill the crab! Then take about 2 heaping tablespoons full into your hand to see how it holds together. That is when you need to start adding the Panko little by little. Your goal is to add enough to keep the patty together but not dry it out. Now you are on your own.
Shape crab mixture into patties, place on a plate, cover and put in fridge for about 45 minutes. This keeps the patties from falling apart.
Heat about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in your frying pan, medium heat.
Add more Panko crumbs on a plate. Take your crab cakes and dip each side in the crumb mixture, then add to skillet.
Cook until nice and crispy brown on both sides. Serve warm.

Last night I made a couple of sauces to go with the crab cakes. The sauce on the right is:

Chipotle Pepper Aioli
Mix in a bowl
One or two canned chipotle peppers, seeded and chopped with a little adobo sauce added
¾ cup of mayo
1 clove of garlic minced
1 generous tablespoon of chopped cilantro
Lime juice to taste

The sauce on the left is:

Remoulade Sauce (This sauce is also great with grilled shrimp)
Mix in a bowl
1 cup of mayo
3 chopped green onions
1 heaping tablespoon of capers, drained
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tablespoon of horseradish
1 clove of garlic minced
A few generous shakes of your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley

Make these sauces ahead of time so they can chill in the fridge to mix the flavors.

To accompany the crab cakes I had a fresh salad of arugula and spinach with a:

Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon peel
1-1/2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon Agave Nectar or honey
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and quickly whisk in the olive oil.

The Lemon Vinaigrette marries well with the crab cakes. In fact, you could use some of it drizzled on the cakes!

The rest of our dinner consisted of roasted baby potatoes in coconut oil with a dusting of cumin and salt and pepper. I also made a black bean and corn salsa, which we just ate as a side dish.

My beverage of choice was a wine that I posted on during the holidays, Le C Faux Frog 2005 Chardonnay by Toad Hollow. This is a wonderful Chardonnay that is not oakey, has a touch of lemon and a bright refreshing finish. It was a perfect match with the crab cakes!

I want to thank my blogging friend Gloria for the E Award that she presented to me. Gloria resides a bit south of me and if you have not visited her site, stop on over and say Hi. She has a wonderful blog, Canela's Kitchen, and writes about the delicious dishes that she prepares and great stories about her family and the places she visits near her home in Chile. Thank you Gloria!

The weekend is upon us once again so everyone enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Key West Garden

A greeting for me this morning in the garden!

Hope you are having a great day!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mushrooms !

The Mushroom. A quick definition that I spotted in a book was fleshy body of any of numerous edible fungi. To look at a mushroom and then here the definition, why would anyone want to eat it? Also, who was the first human that came upon a mushroom and actually decided to eat it? When that human was foraging the forest floor how did he know which mushroom was safe and which one was not? Did he take a buddy with him and said, “Here, you try this one” and did the buddy reply “no, it is your turn”…

Whoever decided that mushrooms were safe to eat, I surely am thankful. Mushrooms may not be the “prettiest” veggie, or should I say fungi, out there, but they are surely packed with flavor! They add that touch of mother earth to so many dishes, cooked or raw. On that note, I want to share with you THE easiest and totally packed with flavor appetizer I muster up.

Grilled Mushroom Caps With a Pesto & Pepper Filling.

That is it! Remove the stems from some medium sized cremini mushrooms (they have more flavor than the white button ones) rub a bit of olive oil on the shroom and place on your grill for about 2 minutes flat side down. Meanwhile, take a jar of your favorite prepared pesto, add some to a small bowl and, to that, stir in some freshly chopped chili. I happen to grow cayenne’s year round so I finely chop one of those little red beauties and add it to the bowl of pesto. Bring your warm mushrooms in from the grill and put a little spoon full of your pesto mixture onto the shroom and sit them round side down back on the grill for another couple of minutes. Remove to a plate and serve.

The juicy goodness of the mushroom combined with the pesto is a succulent party in your mouth. If you wanted to get real fancy with them, you could sprinkle a touch of parmesan cheese atop the pesto or you could also add a couple of toasted pine nuts for a little crunch!

Speaking of mushrooms, I will use this as my entry to Holler and Lisa’s April event over at No Croutons Required. The theme this month, of course, is mushrooms! If you would like to participate in this exciting event, hop on over to either one of their sites for the rules.

Foraging for mushrooms on a forest floor is on my list of “Gee, I would like to do that!” If any of you have had the experience of this, I would love to hear about it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Review 9 "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry"

Need to get away from the stove but not out of the kitchen? Then pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea or, even better, a glass of wine and enjoy my latest read. A good friend of mine gave me the book “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School” by Kathleen Flinn. As all of you cooks out there know, a dream come true would be attending the world famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. In Kathleen’s book, that is exactly what she does. Coming back from vacation, Kathleen finds out that her job has been eliminated. This was not all bad as she felt trapped in corporate middle management. So instead of immediately finding another job, Kathleen clears out her savings account and moves to Paris to pursue a dream – a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu.
In her book we follow Kathleen through her experiences in the kitchens of the cooking school where she meets stern but good hearted chefs and an array of students from all over the world. With them she takes us into the sights and sounds of markets, shops, café’s, and the streets of Paris, that wonderful city of lights. While in Paris, Kathleen’s boyfriend Mike quits his job and moves to Paris with Kathleen while she is attending school. So not only is she experiencing the cooking school in Paris, she shares with us her and Mike’s adventures of living in a foreign country.
At the end of many chapters in her book, Kathleen gives us one of her recipes like mouth-watering Pan Roasted Hens In Calvados Sauce or, one of my favorites, the French classic Boeuf a la Bourguignonne! Also, as a bonus at the end of the book, she give us extra recipes for basics utilized in her recipes such as Pate Brisee and Tomato Concasse.
It always intrigues me and I give much credit to folks who, if able, stop in the middle of their lives and have the guts to do what they have always dreamed, such as Kathleen did.
I truly enjoyed and highly recommend this book. I would love to have the experience of attending a cooking school and, of all places, Paris!