Saturday, July 2, 2016

French Style Avocado Foccacia Toasts


I love avocados in the summertime. I mean what's not to like about them. They are the basis for Guacamole which has got to be one of the best things ever. They are smooth and rich and buttery tasting, and have the most wonder ability to compliment a variety of starchy foods.

In Food and Wine Magazine, one of the contributors talked about avocado toasts with sea salt and red pepper flakes. He explained that the simplicity of the grilled bread with the rich and picante flavor of the mashed ripe avocado was the highlight of his dinner party. Well he was right on. I tried this delectable recipe and I have to say it was good.

Now toasted bread is perhaps one the greatest things in the world as far as I am concerned! Toasted bread is crispy, crunchy, warm and can be savory or sweet, It can be topped with anything from butter and jam or vegetables to melted cheese. It is in short the most wonderful vehicle for savoring a variety of foods.

So next time you are having people over make a little effort and try this instead of the old chips and dip. It will elevate your dinning experience a notch or two and make your guests so happy. So enjoy, Ya'll!

French Style Avocado Foccacia Toasts
serves 4

4 small to medium ripe but not over ripe avocados
Maldon Sea Salt ( or other course flaky sea salt)
1 to 2  teaspoons red pepper flakes depending on your heat level ( plus more for garnish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
VERY good quality finishing olive oil about 1 1/2 tablespoons
Sliced radish as garnish
Fresh lemon pepper grinder for garnish

Method for the Avocado:

Mash the avocados in a bowl till creamy with just a little chunk left then add sea salt flakes to taste and red pepper flakes to taste.
Add a small bit of the olive oil and the lemon juice and stir together till creamy and combined
hold on the side.

Method for Rosemary Toasts:

Foccacia Bread loaf
Good butter at room temp
olive oil
rosemary flavored oil
Maldon Sea Salt

Cut bread into rectangular pieces which are about 4 inches by 2 inches
Slather one side with butter
Place enough olive oil in a skillet till the bottom is lightly coated
Turn on heat to med high
When very hot place the bread butter side down in the pan and allow to cook till toasted and browned
Turn over and let grill till the other side is toasty
Drizzle the rosemary oil over the bread (not too much or it will taste soapy) and sprinkle with the sea salt

To Assemble:

Place toasts on a plate and top with the avocado spread. Drizzle with really good olive oil, red pepper flakes and top with pieces of sliced radish.
Sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and ground lemon pepper

Enjoy ya'll

Friday, July 1, 2016

Crack Salad Recipe or The Famous Greek Country Salad







Ok...Ok,  I know I promised I would post this after posting the dressing. So just in time for the fourth of July festivities I give you the best salad that you will ever put out at a cookout and have your guests ooh and ah over.

The secret to this is really the dressing. It's the all American Vinaigrette that's pretty unstoppable. ( see post: http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2016/06/crack-salad-dressing-recipe-all.html)
However, the salad itself really is the most incredible recipe you can have in your back pocket to impress guests. And now I'm going to give it to you.

I have been making this salad for years, I make this salad for a crowd. It's a large recipe. Feeds 8 to 10.  It's really ideal for a party. But make it at the risk of always having people ask for it. I've made it for 2 Christmas parties at my Mother's home for a large group of people.  I'm telling you it's actually been requested  every year including again this year for the next party. That's how good it is.

Ok the hype sounds like a lot. And maybe it is. What is crack salad? Well it's essentially a Greek panzanella salad. Lot's of things chopped up into similar sized cubes and tossed with bread croutons. But it's got few unique ingredients and the famous crack dressing that take it from good to amazing.

Forrest's Famous Greek Country Salad (aka. Crack Salad) 

(recipe can be doubled or tripled for a crowd)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Greek feta cheese cubed into small dice (1/2 cup reserved on the side for garnish)
2 cups grape tomatoes halved or roma tomatoes seeded and diced small
1 1/2 cups small persian cucumbers diced small
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas sliced in small pieces
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup Greek kalamata olives finely diced up in small pieces
1 1/2 cups eggplant diced and fried up in oil then cooled down
1 cup corn kernels (can be frozen or canned if fresh is not available)
3 1/2 cups slightly crushed croutons ( good quality like Trader Joe's or homemade)
1/4 cup chives chopped finely
2 cups of crack dressing (you might not need it all)

Method: 

Add everything into a big bowl and toss together to combine the toss with enough dressing to coat well and thickly but not over dressed. Garnish with extra feta on top.

Be the hero. Enjoy the compliments.











Pesto & California Black Olive Orzo Pasta Salad



Pasta Salad is an unsung hero of the picnic cookout season. There are a lot of bad pasta salad recipes out there overly dressed and full of all types of crazy ingredients. Sometimes those are fun, but I prefer a simpler recipe as a side dish to accompany delicious grilled meats and fish.

This is a very simple salad. Creamy classic gorgeous green pesto is stirred into hot pasta with California black olives, cheese, a spoonful of Mayonaise that adds just a hint of creamy and lots of chives for color and flavor.

It's served at room temperature and it's a nice mild background to your BBQ meats and other creations. Enjoy this holiday weekend and all Summer long.

Pesto & California Black Olive Orzo Pasta Salad

8 oz. of dried Orzo pasta
1 to 1 1/2 cup pesto ( homemade or store bought fresh not the jarred type)
2 6 oz cans sliced California black olives
1 heaping tablespoon Mayonaise
1 cup shedded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Easy Homemade Pesto

2 cup fresh leaves of basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts or pecans)
1 3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Puree the herbs and garlic and pine nuts in the food processor and slowly blend in the oil with food processor running
Add the nutmeg and the cheese and salt
Blend till combined and bright green

To make the Pasta Salad

Boil the pasta and drain
Add the pesto to the pot and stir to combine while still warm ( This will change the color of the pesto but will also flavor the pasta)
Stir in the mayo
Add the Olives
Add the cheese and add most of the chives leaving a few as garnish
Season with salt and pepper
Garnish with remaining chives

Sitr well to combine and let sit to meld the flavors for a few hours in the fridge
Serve at room temperature
Enjoy Ya'll



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Crack Salad Dressing Recipe: All American Vinaigrette


As we approach the 4th of July I offer up this Summer recipe special.

There are salad dressings and there are salad dressings. I mean think about all the restaurant and restaurant chain salad dressings that you have either experienced personally or have had friends rave about. Dressings that have spawned internet searches and questions to waiters and copy cat posts all over the web.

So I'm throwing my hat on the ring. This dressing is one that everyone should make. It's a definite winner with any kind of Greek salad with salty feta and kalamata olives and to be honest it's best in the "Crack Salad" I will post later.

But this dressing is just good and I've tried it in very many salads. Mixed it into mexican bean salads with Mexican cheese and added it to pasta sauce.  I've also stirred it into forbidden black rice for a delicious side dish. It's an umami bomb and when mixed with the right ingredients it becomes unstoppably good.

It's a play on a vinaigrette with an all American ingredient which takes it over the top. But no one will know it's in there. So make it, and watch the smiles spread as people taste it on your salad of choice.

All American Vinaigrette "aka Crack Dressing"

2 small shallots
1/2 cup really good sherry vinegar
2 cups picked fresh oregano ( must be fresh)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
big pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups good quality olive oil
3 heaping tablespoons or so French's Yellow Mustard ( Must be French's)

Place shallots and vinegar in a food processors and pulse till minced
Add oregano and pulse till smooth paste
add lemon juice and salt and pepper and pulse
With motor running slowly add the olive oil till combined
Add mustard 1 tablespoon at a time pulsing till the dressing is emulsified
Add mustard ( Note: You may use it all or not use it all. You might need a little more but till you can taste the oil is balanced out and the dressing is smooth and tangy tasting keep adding. You'll taste it when it's sharp and perfect but not overly mustardy. You don't want that.)







Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Smokey Tomato Soup and Colby Grilled Cheese with Chives, Finding our yesterdays in cooking today.



There are few combinations that go together better than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

If I were to think about when I was a kid, there were a few meals that would come to mind as favorite things I ate. And this combo was certainly one of them. I have grand memories of sitting down to the table as a little kid at lunch on a weekend and being served a big cup or bowl of tomato soup right out of the red and white can and a grilled cheese sandwich made with white bread crisped in margarine and melty with slices of yellow American cheese oozing out of them.

 Like any comfort food memory it is inextricably tied to the time, place and mostly importantly people that I remember surrounding that food. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are the stuff that sweet dreams of childhood are made of. So whenever I eat them no matter the quality I am right back at that round kitchen table with my mother, grandmother Irene, father and brother having lunch and laughing talking and sharing. A food memory, a family memory, a lovely happy moment in time captured in one mouthful of the simplest of foods.

In the forthcoming book I am writing, "Foraging Memory", I explore this phenomenon of comfort food, home and history.  Personal food heritage and it's role in our understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

Although today I make a version of these humble dishes that far exceeds the culinary roots of the my recollection, originally served up from the can and the ubiquitous white bread loaf in the plastic wrapper. The taste memory remains strong and is actually the same. This soup is delicious and the paprika gives it a really round smokey flavor. The chives added to the grilled cheese seems silly but the slight onion flavor really takes the sandwich to another level, truly delicious.

Please enjoy these recipes on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon with your loved ones or dear friends. It is a delicious combo many of us might recall with joy. The joy of happy afternoons spent in the company of loved ones and of a time when we were still making the memories that inspire us today.  

Smokey Tomato Soup
( makes 6 to 8 servings )

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine ( or vermouth )
6 gloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups good chicken stock, I like stock not broth
3 carrots grated
3 stalks of celery finely diced
2 large white onions chopped
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves finely chopped
1/2  teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon or more to taste smoked paprika
3 (28 ounce) cans of Italian Roma peeled tomatoes
1 pint of cream
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine melted butter, onions, carrots, garlic and dried spices in a large pot with the olive oil salt and pepper cook vegetables down till they are soft. Add white wine and let simmer till cooked into the mix.
Add Tomatoes and the red pepper flakes, basil leaves and the stock.
Stir mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 40 mins.
Take soup in batches and blend till smooth in blender in batches or use an immersion blender
Return soup to pot and heat up and season to taste with salt and pepper.
At this point you can add the cream or not depending on your taste and heat through.
Divide and serve in large bowls garnish with chopped parsley or more basil


Colby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Dill Pickles (Makes 4 sandwiches)

Eight slices of good quality thick white bread, sour dough or pullman loaf
12 slices of Colby Jack or Colby cheese
1 small bunch chives finely chopped
20 or so slices of good quality hamburger dill pickles
mayonaise 
dijon mustard
butter at room temperature

Method

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Very generously butter each slice of bread wall to wall on one side then spread very thin layer of Mayo (this keeps it from burning) and place butter side down on a sheet of wax paper
Heat a skillet to medium heat
Mix a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with the dijon and spread on all slices of the bread
Divide the cheese between the slices of bread
Place the buttered bread 2 at a time in the skillet and cook till each piece is toasted golden and the cheese starts to melt then add a big dallop of the chives blanketing both sides of the bread and cheese
When done hold to the side repeat till all slices are toasted and buttery warm
Put sandwiches together
On a clear baking sheet place the sandwiches and lightly press down with the spatula
Place the sandwiches in the oven and heat for about 10 to 15 mins till the cheese is melted and heated through
Remove from the oven and let stand for about 3 mins. Slice in half and serve with dill pickle chips and the soup.



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer Roasted Tomato Risotto



I love risotto and of all the types out there tomato risotto is one of my favorites. It holds a special place in my heart because of a dear friend and roommate who introduced me to making it.

Now risotto if often thought of a a winter dish and I agree that it can be just that. All the warming and rich things that one loves to eat during the cold season. However if prepared with a lighter touch it can be a very hearty seasonal dish that can be enjoyed all year long.

This risotto has a light tomato flavor and is a delicious meal in itself with a salad and some good bread and olive oil.

So give it a try for your next meatless Monday and see how easy it is to make Summer tomatoes sing Italian.

Summer Roasted Tomato Risotto

To Make you will need:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
20 small campari style tomatoes on the vine.
1 large ripe tomato diced very fine with seeds and juice
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth ( I think vermouth and tomatoes are a wonderful combo)
4 to 6 cups warm chicken broth ( can use veggie )
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup shaved parmesan reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups grated aged gouda (such as Old Amsterdam)
1 cups grated sharp aged cheddar cheese
Salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
Big Fat finishing olive oil on hand
Maldon Sea salt flakes

Method:

In a 350 degree oven roast tomatoes tossed with a little olive oil and sea salt for about 45 mins
Cook onion in oil in a large pan till translucent then add garlic
Cook till garlic blooms
Add rice and cook for about 3 to  4mins. or till the rice is beginning to toast slightly in the oil and is well covered add salt and pepper
Add dried herbs and diced tomatoes and tomato paste cook another minute
Add 1 cup dry vermouth wine cook till absorbed
Slowly add stock about a cup at a time stirring until the risotto is thick and the liquid is completely absorbed then add more broth until all broth is used up or the risotto is just al dente ( slightly chewy)
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let sit a few minutes. Then very carefully cut the tomatoes from the stems and let fall into the pot. Pour any oil and excess juice from the baking sheet into the pot;
Keep 4 sets of three tomatoes to use as garnish on the side
Then using your spoon crush the tomatoes into your risotto
At this point add the parsley
Add butter stirring vigorously. remove from the heat and add all cheeses and stir.
When creamy add a touch of finishing oil and divide among 4 to 6 bowls depending.
Garnish with Maldon salt and the remaining cheese
Serve right away!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Tacos with Chorizo and Avocado



It's grilling season and that means cooking up meats on the grill of all sorts. Of course there are lots of ways to enjoy those meats but tacos are always a top favorite in my book.

Now there are many many many recipes for tacos that are out there and I'm here to give you a simple and easy fresh recipe you can make anytime of year and doesn't rely on you having a grill available.

These tacos are easy and fresh and delicious. They are made with a combination of beef and chorizo sausage which gives them a really great flavor and lots of spice. The garnish is simple fresh tomatoes and avocado and scallions and simple red California style taco salsa.

Forrest's Beef and Chorizo Tacos with Fresh Toppings 

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground chorizo
3 ripe avocados diced
3 ripe tomatoes diced
1 small red onion small dice (optional)
6 scallions chopped including green parts
1 jar Trader Joe's regular red salsa
Cilantro leaves picked
16 small corn white corn tortillas

Method

In a bowl with you hands mix the beef and the chorizo together
In a pan cook the meat until just cooked crumble into large pieces
Toast the tortillas in a little oil
Fill the tortillas with the meat and garnish with the avocado and tomato onions and scallions and top with the salsa and cilantro.
Enjoy!