Saturday, December 21, 2013

Decadent Holiday Recipes for Entertaining: Chive and Truffled Deviled Eggs

OK for the next few weeks I will be planning a party for my Mother which will take place over the holidays. One of the things that my Mom wants out of her party is to serve things that the folks she's inviting normally never get to see served at the myriad of parties they attend. And trust me these people go to a lot of parties.  So thus comes the challenge. Serve them something they will really enjoy and is new and interesting for them. And something that they will talk about after they go home.

It seems a fitting challenge for me. For while one would want to serve things, that you might be sure they have never seen before, you have to be careful that that strategy doesn't backfire. People are funny about food especially at parties. They want to eat what they like or at least what seems familiar. The challenge is to do that but do it in a way that pushes the envelope or encourages discovery.

Now when I started thinking about this I thought, what foods might be familiar at a Southern Christmas party? Well nothing says party and Southern like deviled eggs. And to make them special nothing says decedent like the rich taste of truffle oil. Now I know truffles are not a new thing nor is truffle oil. Chefs have actually over used it these days. Nor is the idea of truffled deviled eggs new. However, I decided to really really go there and make super crazy truffled deviled eggs. So rich and truffled that one bite and you would be overwhelmed by their rich aroma and flavor. In short the ultimate deviled egg.

So here is the recipe when I made these I had to say they were crazy truffled, which if you are a fan of the truffle you would love. The chives give with a little punch and color and the aleppo pepper really sings. If you want to impress this season, make these!

The Ultimate Chive and Truffled Deviled Eggs 

8 eggs hard boiled and peeled
1 heaping spoonful Dukes mayonaise
4 heaping spoonfuls of chive and onion cream cheese in a small tub
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
4 tablespoons chives chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
truffle oil to taste
Aleppo Pepper

Cut the eggs in half. Scoop out the yokes into a bowl throw away 2 of the whites so you have 12 halves left
Mix with the other ingredients except truffle oil and Aleppo pepper
Mash until a smooth paste forms
Truffle the eggs to your taste ( I really went to town with the oil it was good and strong)
Place the filling in a plastic bag refridgerate for about an hour.
Cut a corner off the bag
Fill the whites
Garnish with chive batons and aleppo pepper

Chestnut Soup, A Williamsburg Christmas, Memory Lane and a Dash of Yuletide Cheer

When I was in 6th grade my father's naval career took us to Washington DC. or more exactly Reston Virginia. The 80's were a great time in the DC. area. The overdevelopment that now plagues the DC. Metro area was not to the level it is these days. There were still a lot of winding country roads for one to drive around on and farms still operating around every bend. It was an interesting change for my brother and myself, as Navy brats, coming from Hawaii and being shot into another matrix of people and places. But we took to it and soon found that we felt of it as home.

One new and exciting experience which we had during those years in Virginia was a Christmas trip to the historic Tidewater area of the state specifically the Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown triangle.

I mean it is a little hard to believe that so many parts of our nation's history actually played themselves out in this very small part of the country. It was after all the site of the first successful English settlement in the new world, Jamestown. It was the part time capital of the new nation at colonial Williamsburg, site of many historic discussions and meetings of our founding fathers. And of course Yorktown was where after being surrounded Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and ended the Revolutionary War. That's a lot of history for one little area!

As young boys the thrill of going to this very historic place was really exciting and fun. Not just because we had the chance to go to all those historical places, but because we got to go on a vacation, stay in a hotel, and most likely eat out at some tasty interesting places. Oh even then we were thinking about food.

Now for those of you who have never been to Williamsburg, it is for me the most magical around the Christmas holidays. And for those of you who have been let's take a little trip down memory lane and remember our time there. Williamsburg is pretty engaging year round, But  during the holiday season, Williamsburg is really special.

First let me give you a sense of what Williamsburg is like in general. Imagine if you could be in a place that truly replicates the structures, lifestyle and atmosphere of a Colonial town. Well that mixed in with a good dose of tourist friendly activities and modern convenience.

But truly it is the atmosphere that is most engaging, and at Christmas time this is elevated to yet another level. Ok let me set the stage for you.  First you have this intensely developed almost Museum quality reproduction of a colonial town as it was on the eve of 1776. Next you have tourism opportunities to see, taste, tour and witness reenactments of moments in that period, houses of the period, shops of the period and restaurants or taverns of the period. Greenery decked with fruits in wreaths and garland is everywhere, candles dance and twinkle in the evenings, and bon fires are lit for singing and story telling as well as lighting up the holiday nights. It is magical and if you are the in the slightest interested in history and the past it can be quite enrapturing.

The dining experience back then in Williamsburg was varied as you may imagine. Everything from the modern coffee shop, to the Taverns in the town, to an upscale Dining experience, to the full on Colonial feast with Actors playing all the parts and the guests feeling themselves a part of the action. (Sort of a Medieval Times meets George Washington's Dining room). There were so many different dishes to sample. Colonial foods such as peanut soup, stuffed Chicken, pan roasts, wild game, and spoon bread. In the more haute cuisine area there was the Cascades restaurant, a very 1970's esque structure built near the conference center and visitors center.

For the Anglophile Williamsburg is the closest thing to seeing British colonial history come alive. And while we like to think of ourselves today as American and very different from England, the people who lived in the Revolutionary war times saw themselves as British subjects and even to some extent as fighting to regain their rights from and not win their freedom from, Mother England. In fact the war that became the American War of Independence really started as the war for sovereign rights.

In any case the British influence on our food traditions is clearly seen in the Williamsburg cuisine of today. Roasted meats, breads, puddings, soups and stews all having their roots in British cuisine are clearly represented. And at Christmas Time the traditional foods of the British table make their way to the menus of the Williamsburg Restaurants.

One such dish is chestnut soup.A long favored dish in European cooking Chestnut soup makes itself only minimally known in the Christmas traditions of today. Chestnuts in general are not really on today's food radar with the exception of Chestnut stuffing. So the back story not withstanding, this soup became known to me first in Williamsburg many years ago.And as I recently have become interested in researching my own personal food history I took a look at this dish again being that it is the holidays and all.

I made this for friends the other day and I have to say my friend Quincy summed it up by saying "this soup just tastes like Christmas somehow". Indeed it does. I found this version by Nigella Lawson online. I sort of love her cooking and her sensibility. So of course I changed it a bit only because I thought it needed more Chestnuts than she put in hers. Interestingly it's only seasoning is salt and pepper and yet the Chestnuts give the soup an amazingly rich flavor that at once evokes thoughts of sugar plums dancing in one's head, roaring fire and twinkling candel light, holiday cheer and all that. So here's a Holiday dish for you to try this season. Enjoy Ya'll!

Chestnut Soup ( based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson)

1 medium onion diced
3 to 4 stalks celery diced
2 carrots diced
1 cup dried red lentils
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon bullion ( Chicken or Vegetable)
450 grams jarred or canned chestnuts (cooked)
a couple of shakes of ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
Extra water for thinning
1/4 cup cream ( optional )
chopped chives for garnish

Place the onions in a pot with some vegetable oil and cook until softened
Add the lentils and cook a little in the hot vegetables
Add the water and bullion and a few hardy shakes of cloves ( it's a background flavor so just a little)
Stir to combine
Add the Chestnuts and cook for about 40 mins to an hour over low heat
Puree the soup in a blender thin with more water if necessary
Serve with a drizzle of cream and chopped chives. Enjoy!
The holidays in a bowl!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Autumn Bisque with Butternut Squash, Fennel and Onions A Taste of Fall's Bounty

When I was attending college in the the Shenandoah Valley at James Madison University there was an interesting collection of folks who lived there. I mean by that that there were University folks and then there were townies, or locals. This group was further splintered out into cultural and religious groups. Many of of who had been there since before the civil war. The largest and most visible of these groups was probably the Mennonites.

Mennonites like the Amish in the Pennsylvania countryside are a German religious group who fled Europe in the 1700's seeking a better life and the freedom to worship as they pleased. They settled into various areas but today are concentrated in lower Virginia and Southern Pennsylvania. They are peaceful and good natured people who are mostly farmers and such and who make their living off the land.

In the city of Harrisonburg where I went to college there was a local food coop run by the Mennonites. You could get the best produce and local milk cheese and baked products one could imagine. One of the things that was always available in the late fall once school was in session were sweet potatoes and squash as well as other root veggies. So I got into the habit of making soup which as a Student was very easy and cheap and filling. One of the soups I learned how to make was a butternut squash soup flavored with curry. It was a recipe from my roommate's mother and it was really delicious. But I sort of stopped making it because later on I really never lived in cold climate and warming soups were not a part of my diet as much.

When I first got into catering in New York city I was again exposed to the butternut squash and as it got more popular it started popping up everywhere. Soon every natural soup company was making a butternut squash soup. But still I only would make this soup or a version of it once a year during the fall normally for a dinner party. And this year I was asked for a soup as a starter for the dinner I was attending. So I pulled out this recipe and revisited it as a reference for making a new version. And I must say that with one exception I stuck with the original formula and that one change made the soup really a level above where it had been before. And gauging from the reactions at the dinner I hit a home run!!

So here is my recipe it makes about 10 cups and I suggest you make it all because you are going to want eat it for leftovers. Enjoy Ya'll

Forrest's Autumn Bisque with Fennel, Onions and Pistachio's

2 lbs of butternut squash cut up in cubes ( if you can buy this it makes life so much easier)
4 tablespoons butter (optional)
2 large onions diced
2 fennel bulbs ( white part) diced
6 cloves of garlic roasted in the oven till soft and caramelized
1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped
dried sage, thyme, rosemary
dried cumin, Dharamsala ( Indian Spice mix you can buy or make this), turmeric
Salt and Pepper
Optional chopped pistachios and roasted pistachio oil
Creme fraiche or sour cream (for garnish)
1 small bunch chopped chives ( hold a few pinches for garnish on the side)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 cup half and half


Place the butternut squash on a baking tray and toss with olive oil and the fresh thyme a good sprinkle of dried rosemary and sage, salt and pepper
Bake in a 350 degree oven for between 20 and 40 mins. At 20 minutes check to see if soft with a fork bake till soft but not really browned.
Remove and cool
Meanwhile in a large stock pot cook the onions and fennel with some oil and salt and pepper just till soft add butter till melted.
Add in the stock and the butternut squash and the garlic
Add 1 heaping Tablespoon cumin, 1 1/2 heaping Tablespoons Dharamsala and 1 heaping Tablespoon turmeric
Add 1 teaspoon dried sage and also thyme
Add 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Add 1 teaspoon pepper
Add bay leaves
Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer cook for 30 mins
Turn off heat.

Cool slightly remove bat leaves and then working in batches puree soup in a blender
Or use a immersion blender if too thick add water to thin
Return soup to pot put on warm heat ( do not boil)
Add the half and half
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed ( I find it needs it)
( note* at this point you can add more cumin, Dharamsala or turmeric as desired. The amounts I show are a good start but you may want more spice feel free to add more to your taste)

To serve:

Right before serving stir in chives
Place in a bowl and garnish with a dallop of creme fraiche, a few pistchios and a drizzle of the oil and some reserved chives

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I am Thankful On Thanksgiving Redux

So this is a repost of sorts but I wanted to share this story again if some of you who are reading my blog have not seen it because, I think it is one that helps me to remain humbled by the goodness that is in my life. Despite of the challenges and the problems I have, I need to stand every now and then in that place of reflection and remember how lucky I am and how many are not as fortunate as me and that I have the responsibility to do something, no matter how small, about it. To be part of the solution. To give thanks by doing thankful things. 

Thanksgiving the Day of Thanks. It is a holiday that brings into one's minds eye soft and cozy images of times spent with special people at special places and in special circumstances with special foods. As children it can be a magical time, as a part of a holiday haze that serves as a precursor to Fall's ending and ushers in the Christmas season with all it's joy and pomp. It's a time when the construction paper laden bulletin boards in the classrooms would switch from Halloween's black hats and orange cats to multi colored fall leave cut outs laced with with pumpkins and turkeys and maybe a pilgrim's hat. It was a long weekend off from school and playing football in the backyard with the neighbors kids. It was a family and friend gathering time, and that time was precious. It was truly special. This is what I remember about Thanksgiving growing up.

As with so many parts of our national traditions the entertaining industry and media have created whole campaigns around the Thanksgiving Holiday The magazine industry has for years spewed out at us in images and articles ideas which would have us picture Thanksgiving as a Norman Rockwell painting come to life with all the sights and smells of a picture perfect world. Not that we all live in that Rockwellian Paradise, a parade of 1950's picture perfect families and houses decked to perfection with all the trappings of the season. Indeed some of us, maybe a very few, are blessed few live in a world like that. But most of us don't. We live in real families with real people who are not perfect and who, by the grace of God, somehow find their way through to loving and supporting one another and keeping it together. Therefore Thanksgiving can play various roles in our family's journey whether it be our birth family or chosen one. It can be a healing time and a time for reflecting on ourselves and our families, friends and our world and our place in it and in other peoples lives.

Too often holidays like Thanksgiving bring up sad or depressing memories or thoughts for people. That is a sad thing indeed when it should be a holiday when we focus on being thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don't have or feel deprived of. A story from my past reminds me of how grateful I should be and how I should count my blessings on Thanksgiving instead of wishing for something more.

When I was touring with the national tour of "Oliver!" the musical, I spent a Thanksgiving in California. It was a warm and wet day and we had two shows back to back. Now I tried to arrange for my cast mates and myself to have a nice "holiday" meal but when push came to shove we really did not have enough time to go out to a formal dinner, nor did everyone want to spend the money to do so.

Disheartened I decided to go with the flow. But when it was announced that we were going to Jack in the Box for dinner I about flipped out. I mean really it;s Thanksgiving!! Nonetheless I went with the flow, saddened further by missing my family and friends elsewhere and saddened by the circumstances. However, when we got to the Jack in the Box ( which is a fast food restaurant for those of you who don't know)  that is when I was really shocked. The restaurant was completely crowded and full. Full of families having dinner, parents and their kids. Full of people eating alone in silence, eating at the friggin Jack in the Box on Thanksgiving!!!

Suddenly I was ashamed of feeling badly about not having my special dinner on this special holiday. Indeed, all the years I was a child or even an adult I never once had anything like this as a holiday meal, let alone a time where my parents would choose to take me to something like that whether by choice or circumstance. Indeed I had only known a practically Norman Rockwell existence compared to this. And suddenly I was filled with gratitude. Graditude for my past, for my family, and for my friends from the show who I was with, who I loved and loved being with wherever we were. I was so grateful.

So this Thanksgiving when I am gathering around whatever table it may be with friends and loved ones I want to remember how blessed I am to have what I have, and try to resolve when the holiday is long past and all there is left is turkey sandwiches from the icebox and mountains of dishes, that blessings are all around and I should be grateful for all of them large and small and not be disheartened or discontent but be the change in the world around me for good giving back a little of what I have been given.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And thanks for reading my blog all year. I would love to know who is out there reading and looking, so make comments on posts you like and give me feedback on what I can so to improve. Peace!

My Favorite Turkey Left Over Casserole

Turkey Swiss Fondue Casserole

3 to 4 cups of chopped leftover meat stripped from the Turkey ( Can also be made with cubed Ham)
1 pound Brussel sprouts halved
10 oz mushrooms sliced
1 large onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup white wine
grated nutmeg
16 oz of swiss cheese grated ( gruyere is amazing but expensive)
4 oz of parmesan cheese grated
2 cups left over stuffing scattered on a sheet tray and dried out 2 hours outside the fridge 
1 cup ritz crackers crushed

In medium casserole add the turkey and all the veggies
In a pot melt butter add the onions and cook till just soft then add flour stirring about 3 to 4 mins till flour is cooked then add the garlic cook another minute.
Add the milk slowly and whisk till thickened then add wine to thin out till smooth 
Cook about 5 mins then add the swiss cheese till melted.
Add nice pinch of nutmeg
Pour over the Turkey Mixture
Mix the Stuffing, Parmesan, and the crackers together and top the dish
Bake in a a 350 degree oven for 45 mins
Take out let cool slightly and serve
Enjoy Ya'll and Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Creamed Spinach in Pastry Shells or Popeye The Sailor's New Favorite Side Dish

So it's Thanksgiving and everyone is trying to plan out their feasting menus, shopping for food and preparing for the day of days. In short crazy time. Well of the many things that I love to put on the menu I really never thought about Spinach as a vegetable for the Thanksgiving Day table but then I thought about the rest of the Holidays and the various foods we will consume and I decided Spinach could have it's place on the table, why not.

Now I love lightly cooked spinach with garlic and oil. I adore a spinach salad with a hot bacon dressing but I absolutely love creamed spinach. It's absolutely one of the best things ever made.

Now I think I first came across this dish when I was about 11. We had just moved to the Northern Virginia area from Hawaii and my father took us to a steak house for dinner called The Joshua Tree in McClean, Virginia. It was a rather fancy place with a stone facade and wooden accents and it was very popular. It was actually owned by the Marriott corporation and was a trial restaurant they wanted to grow into a new chain. It did not however pan out, and closed several years later.  Loud, dark and sexy with a bar full of young twenty somethings, it was exactly the kind of place my Parents sort of hated. But they took us there anyway because they had heard it was good. Well it really wasn't and we never went back. I really don't remember much except that the Host was kinda rude to my Dad and that at some point in the meal to the table came this small bowl of side dish deliciousness. It was a bowl of creamed spinach and how I had never seen this done at home was besides the point. The point was where could I get more!!

Spinach as a side dish has been one of those vegetables that had food lore grown up around it. High in vitamins and iron it was a natural for food companies to market as something Mom's should feed their little ones. Even the media got into it with "Popeye the Sailor man" eating his cans of spinach growing instant muscles and beating up Brutus the bad guy. In sort spinach has been a part of the American food landscape for a long time. Creamed Spinach was popularized in the late 1800's in New York city by steak houses in the city and became a staple. It's origins are likely in Swedish or Italian cookery which both have them as well known dishes. Normally flavored with a mixture of shallots or onions, garlic and nutneg as well as sometimes a creamy herb or parmesan cheese, it is luscious and rich and very very good. I have made it over the years and have made it using all of the above. This new version comes with the addition of ranch dressing spices and white cheddar and marscapone cheese. It is oh so very good.

So in this recipe the creamed spinach is served in a puff pastry cup and topped with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of salsa. It's a nod to the "Chicago Style" spinach dip which is served at the restaurant Houston's or Hillstone as many are called now.  A little unconventional but really good. So if you want an elegant side dish which is easily prepped ahead of time and warmed in the oven, try these. They were great. Enjoy Ya'll.

Creamed Spinach in Puff Pastry Shells

For the shells you can make your own or you can do what I do and buy the pepperidge farm ones and bake them according to the package directions. Cool and cut out the top caps. Set aside.

For the spinach ( this makes extra creamed spinach for leftovers or you can bake more shells up to 24 believe me every one will want two!! )
28 oz of fresh baby spinach leaves. That's about 6 packages of the grocery store pre-washed stuff.1
2  cups whole milk
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
1 small onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
A couple of dashes of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ranch seasoning mix from the Hidden Valley packet
4 oz marscapone cheese
Sour Cream for garnish
Salsa for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cook Spinach with a little oil in a pan until wilted and soft
In a large pot melt butter add onions and cook till soft add garlic and cook one min
add flour and cook for about another 3 mins
then add milk slowly till it blends into a white sauce season with salt and pepper
Add bay leaf and let cook over low heat for about 20 mins remove bay leaf and add the cheddar cheese and the parmesan stir to combine
Add the ranch spices the nutmeg and pepper. Taste and add salt if desired
Add spinach to sauce and combine well.
Add Marscapone and mix well.
Check again for salt add more nutmeg if desired as well if necessary.
Hold warm up to 2 hours stirring occasionally

When ready to serve heat the shells in a warm oven about 10 mins the fill till just almost overflowing with the spinach and top each with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of salsa Enjoy!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Vegetable Eater Wishes: Brussel Sprouts and Medjool Dates the Perfect Paring

Now as everyone knows the true stars of any meal are the side dishes. I mean Sides are the best and most memorable part of any meal if you really think about it. I have a friend that I would go to dinner with on a regular basis, and his interest was always in the side dishes that came with any meal. I mean lets face it, as kids how many family dinners were based around chicken or beef and how many were enhanced by the presence of delicious side dishes that made the meal more than winner winner chicken dinner.

I think this is seen no more strongly than with the holy grail meal of the year Thanksgiving. It is as I have shared before, my favorite meal. And lets face it Thanksgiving is never really about the Turkey, it's about the sides. Stuffings with everything from onions to oysters, Potatoes mashed or Gratinated, Vegetables of all sorts all prepared and dressed up with sauces, smoked meats, cheeses or cream. Fruits in salads or baked in pies and cakes. All in all a cast of thousands of side dishes waiting to be picked for the ultimate yearly feast.

Now in my world I also have the issue that there are some people who unlike myself don't eat meat. So as such I am careful at times to prepare foods I know with will OK with said folks. Thanksgiving is one meal that can be tough for vegetarians because so many dishes are prepared with a nod to the pig with bacon and Ham being a flavoring ingredient. But not to worry I have a preparation for brussel sprouts that will make every palate happy.

Now Brussel Sprouts are one of those vegetables that have become so popular that one wonders about the origin of their bad reputation. It is probably rooted in the American cooking methods of the past where boiling vegetables to their death was a common thing. With a cabbage like flavor and bitter edge a mushy wet sprout was hardly a tasty treat. So welcome to today where roasting or pan sauteing them brings out a delicious browned savory dish that people can literally sink their teeth into. Oh and lets not forget things like bacon cream and cheese that really pump up the volume on flavor.

My recipe follows these modern day methods and is in a work delicious. It has it's roots in Californian cooking actually where I first became aware of the idea of mixing fruits especially dried ones into savory dishes. And it comes about because of my introduction to the Medjool date. Medjool dates are the most prized among the dates in the world. They are so special that they are actually serve onboard several Arabic airlines they way the French would serve high end bonbons like a little treat during the flight. Fortunately they are available most of the year and are definitely available in the fall.

I first prepared this dish as a nod to a restaurant dish I had using caesar salad dressing on a salad of shaved sprouts and dried cranberries with croutons and onion. But it's inception really came after seeing dates served warm in a spinach salad with bacon dressing. Brussel Sprouts seemed the natural pairing for warm dates and the caesar idea drove home the rest.

So to make this dish you trim the bottoms off the brussel sprouts and slice them in halves. You also slice the dates in two to three pieces depending on the size. You then put a compound butter in a hot pan made with garlic, salt, pepper, anchovies, lemon juice and zest and parsley in a pan with a dash of olive oil and get it good and hot. Then you add the brussel sprouts and saute till just a little softened then add the dates and cook till the dates are warmed through and the sugars begin to caramelize slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and you are done.

People love these. And they could not be easier, just be careful not to over cook them. Please try them and let me know what you think. If you don't like anchovies don't worry you don't taste them they are just a background flavor. Enjoy Ya'll and Happy Thanksgiving!

Forrest's Brussel Sprouts with Medjool dates and compound garlic butter

1 lb brussel sprouts ends trimmed and cut in half
1 1/2 cup medjool dates sliced into  two to three pieces short ways not longwise depending on their size
4 tablespoons compound garlic butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Compound garlic butter
(this makes extra you can use for all sorts of uses)

1 stick softened butter unsalted
2 heaping tablespoon garlic minced puree from the jar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
   Zest of one small lemon
3 anchovies
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 medium shallot finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a bowl add all ingredients and cream together then chill at least 3 hours

For the sprouts 

In a pan ( a wok works well for this)  take 4 teaspoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat
When hot add brussel sprouts stirring to coat the sprouts then let sit for a few minutes stirring to get sprouts very slightly cooked about 3 to 4 mins then add the dates and the salt and pepper and carefully stir. ( you don't want the dates to completely break up)
Cook till the brussel sprouts are just cooked and the dates are beginning to caramelize about another 2 to 4 mins then turn off the heat and serve add salt if needed
Enjoy Ya'll!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Garlic bread

You can say what you want but bread and butter are an unstoppable combination. There is just something about hot right out of the oven bread served with salted room temperature butter that just makes everything better.

When I was a kid my Grandma who lived with us would make sandwiches with butter instead of mayonnaise. I thought it was brilliant my brother thought it was gross. Of course my brother and I also disagreed on the whole Miracle Whip vs. Mayo debate as well. I love Miracle Whip and he hates it so we always chose to disagree on those topics. One thing we both agreed on though, hot buttery garlic bread is always a good thing.

Now garlic bread is something that gets a bad rap I think. So much garlic bread is kinda badly done. For example you can definitely taste the difference between frozen garlic bread and garlic bread made from scratch. Although I will say that "Cole's" brand garlic bread in the freezer is pretty darn good.
But I digress. The best garlic bread I ever had was the garlic bread at a place called Vienna Trattoria in Vienna Virginia. My family would go there for Pizza on movie nights and besides the pizza dough being spiced ever so slightly with nutmeg which was actually rocking good, they had the best garlic cheese bread I have ever had. So rich and juicy and cheesy and good. It was the best part of the meal. And like the cheddar garlic biscuits at Red Lobster it was addictive.

Now make regular garlic bread when I make my Half Time Scallops dish and use it to mop up the sauce. But I also make it when I make simple spaghetti and meat sauce and when I make roasted Oysters. However garlic cheese bread is for special occasions and dishes that need a boost like a big dinner salad or soup meal. That's when this bread is the best. You can also serve it with Cioppino the San Francisco seafood stew. It's great with that.

So now that the weather is getting colder and we are enjoying warming foods that make out tongues and tummies happy. So get in on this stuff it's good! Enjoy Ya'll.

"Garlic Herby Cheesey Bread"

So this is my super secret ( not really) recipe for garlic cheese bread. Those of you who have had it know of it's goodness, those who have not, should make it!

1 large loaf fresh good quality sourdough french or Italian Bread or Ciabatta works well
1/2 Stick butter at room temperature
4 ounces of Boursin cheese room temp
3/4 cup Mayonaise
6 cloves ( about 1/4) cup cut in half
1/2 cup fresh parsley finely chopped ( half reserved for sprinkling over the top)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoons dried Italian Seasoning
4 whole green onions chopped
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Slice the bread in half longwise
Melt 1/2 of the butter and place garlic in it and let sit on warm heat till garlic is infused about 10 mins then strain garlic let cool
In a bowl add all ingredients including the rest of the butter.
Stir well to combine
Cut loaf in half length-wise
Spread melted butter on bread
Spread mixture on top
Place open faced on baking sheet
Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 mins till bubbly
Slice and serve warm!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beef Bourguignon and Channeling Julia Child

Many years ago I saw a television program that in some way changed my life. It was the French Chef with Julia Child.

Now I know that over the past few years there has been an enormous amount of press and interest in Julia Child's life and work due to both her portrayal in the book and film Julia and Julia and also because her shows were rebroadcast on the newly minted Cooking Channel. People of all ages know of her and even those who know little of her have of course heard of her now very famous version of the dish which features in the title of this blog entry.

So if you think that I am going to rehash and remake and lay laurels on the hallowed tomes that contain this recipe in print and in television media you are wrong. In fact I find it interesting that so many people have taken to the idea that one person could have the definitive recipe for a dish which comes from the countryside of France and is made by about as many people as make pot roast in the US.

Not to say that Ms.Child's recipe is not amazing. It is in fact just that. Near to tasty perfection as one could possibly get. But it is not the only recipe or method for making this hallowed dish. I say hallowed dish because it is to me one of the most iconic stews in the catalog of Western cooking and certainly one of the most favored in it's class.

I say it because her method while classic is one method. And it's a lot of work! A lot of work. So I will give you my recipe for Beef Bourguignon which I will say is also amazing. It is however slightly different from the original. However, given the reactions of people who have had it still pretty darn good. In fact it's very darn good.

Now my love and respect for Ms. Child is very deep and I credit her with my fascination with cooking and cooking television. I can remember her show coming on in reruns on Saturday afternoons and watching it with my Grandma. I was entranced by this somehow elegant and yet accessible lady and the interesting things one learned from her show about cooking and food.

The first time I ever had Beef Bourguignon was when I was 19 and living in Switzerland. One family I knew invited us over for dinner and the wife who was french made Beef Bourguignon. There in that dining room in the sparkling candle light I knew why it was an amazing dish. Succulent and rich it was the embodiment of winter comfort food. Incredible.

So when I about 10 years ago decided to make Beef Bourguignon I thought about using Julia's recipe. The problem was two fold. I was visiting a friend's mountain house and there was neither the internet nor was there a braising pot. However, there was a slow cooker and a slow cooker recipe booklet that had come with the crock pot. So inspired with this recipe and cooking tool I went to the market got the ingredients and made the dish. It was really good, no really. So I was satisfied that I had made the recipe to a respectable level and made it this way for years. Then it all changed.

My friend's Ken and Rick invited me over to a dinner party one evening and Rick announced that he had made Julia's Beef Bourguignon recipe and we would be having it for dinner. Well it was revelatory. Amazing, incredible. And I felt compelled to try it. So armed with the recipe I too made Julia's recipe and again the results were amazing. But oh my God it was a process.

So I decided there had to be an easier way with a few less steps. And I think I found it. It's been tried out a number of times and with some changes finally is to a point where I would say that if you want to make this dish and amaze people ( it certainly did at my birthday party this year) you can use my recipe. It's a little more work than a crock pot recipe but I won't kid you it's still based on it. So give it a try this fall or winter and let me know in the comments how it goes. Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Beef Bourguignon Recipe
Serves 6 really well can serve 8

4 1/2 pounds of chuck stew meat cubed
oil for cooking
Four for coating the beef
1 white onion finely chopped
1 carrot finely diced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary powder
3 bay leaves dried
1 small can tomato paste
4 strips of bacon chopped
1 bottle rich red wine
2 cans beef broth
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 bag frozen carrot balls ( I buy them from Trader Joe's)
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 lb butter
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 300
In a large bowl toss the beef with enough flour to coat
In a heavy enameled baking casserole brown beef in batches till done
Don't overcrowd or the beef till steam ad you want some browning
Hold browned beef to the side
Cook the bacon till just done remove from pan leave the drippings
Cook the onions in the drippings till soft add carrots and cook another minute
Using some wine deglaze the bits from the bottom of the pan
Add the beef, the bacon, the tomato paste, the spices the salt and pepper and stir
Then pour in the rest of the wine and then add enough beef broth till just covered
Place in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours. At this point check with a fork to see if the meat is tender. If it is remove from the oven if not cook another 30 mins.
Once cooled a little take the beef from the liquid using a strainer or spider
Place the carrots and the pearl onions on a baking sheet
Turn oven to 375 and roast for 20 mins or until just done
Remove and set aside
With the liquid slightly cool now with a spoon skim off the fat
Turn the heat on high and boil till reduced by not quite half
Add butter and brandy and cook another 3 to 5 minutes then turn off heat
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Turn off heat and add the beef and the vegetables stir very gently to coat with the sauce
Place in the oven to reheat at 350 for another 20 to 30 mins till warmed through
Serve with mashed potatoes

Monday, October 21, 2013

Feta and Buttermilk Salad Dressing

Salad Dressings are one of those elements in a dish that absolutely makes or breaks a salad. I love salads but I have to admit I mostly love salad dressings. I mean there is a delicious taste that comes with incredibly fresh salad fixings dressed ever so simply and seasoned perfectly. But as we most all know the salads we as Americans typically eat at home come from the super market. Are not totally fresh and need a little help. Plus trying to get your kids to eat salad greens usually can involve pulling teeth. And that's where dressing comes in. If you have a tasty dressing you can get kids and adults alike to eat their daily greens.

I also love rich flavorful salad dressings with a creamy base over most thin vinegary dressings. There are exceptions but for me that's really pretty much a rule. So when thinking about eating salads which I am doing more of these days. I wanted to bring the flavors I love into the mix. Feta cheese is for me one flavor that makes veggies sing. I love the tang and to ramp that up buttermilk seemed a perfect partner. Greek salads are one of my favorite things with oregano and feta and kalamata olives all mixing in briny sourness together. This dressing sort of takes any group of humble salad fixings and elevates them to a new height with a touch of greek flair.

Feta and Buttermilk Dressing with Tarragon and Herbs

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces French Sheep Feta or buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
In a bowl, whisk together ingredients through salt and pepper. Add the cheese and whisk lightly, leaving small chunks of cheese visible. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Yield: 2 cups

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oktoberfest Menu: The Midwest Makes It Best: Brats, Apples and Onions and Raclette with New Potatoes

The American Midwest is really called the heartland for a reason beyond it's geographical location. It's called the heartland because that's where so many of the ideals we take as "all American" reside in a way that other parts of the country just don't embody them.

Strong working class communities and craftsmen as well as farmers and tradesmen made the Midwest a place which created the work ethic we speak of yet today as the "Midwest work ethic" and more inclusively the "American work ethic". It was the proving grounds for major US. industries and the backbone of the industrial machine which made up much the power base for growth which has fueled the American dream after the second world war.

The Midwest was a place that saw a huge influx of immigrants from central and northern Europe during the mid to late 1800's and early 1900's. Chicago a city in the center of it all had large ethnic neighborhoods which grew up along side one another preserving in some respect the language, traditions and foods which those people brought with them from their homelands. Many of these foreign traditions and foods slowly found their way into mainstream American life. Some are represented yet today by regional holidays, regional traditions or regional foods.

German and Scandinavian immigrants were two of the largest groups to move into the area. Their influence can yet be felt all over the region. Festivals celebrating various food and cultural traditions are common and they are often well attended and woven into the area's holiday seasons.

So I have spoken before of my sojourn in the land of cheese and dairy better known as Wisconsin. I worked for about a total of one  and a half years of my life at the Fireside Theater. I got to see a lot of that state while I was there and became very interested in the local food scene. I later spent time working in Milwaukee and got to know some of the German heritage foods that are popular in that town.

When we think of German traditions popular in the US. today one comes to mind immediately. Octoberfest which is celebrated in southern Germany as a form of harvest festival has found it's way into the American landscape and has become a fun beer and food festival celebrated all over the US.

So I wanted to make a dinner the other day that sort of evoked the whole Oktoberfest thing. I decided on Brats which I love. I also wanted to make sides that would be fun and a little different. So a very fall and very German thing is baked apples and onions. I wanted to ramp that up a little bit so I decided to add chopped sweet and hot cherry peppers and the result was delightful. Sweet apples baked soft with the sharp and sweet contrast of the onions and then the chopped peppers added a spicy unexpected The brats were first slowly simmered in beer then thrown in with the apples and onions to bake to a golden brown.

The other part of this menu was the side dish. Potatoes boiled and served with melted Raclette cheese which is a Swiss and French dish garnished with pickled veggies. I decided on a oven version melting the cheese over sliced boiled potatoes and crisping the top with the broiler right before serving.

It all came together. Browned and crisped skinned plump Brats piled over a mountain of roasted apples and onions spiced unexpectedly with the cherry peppers joined creamy melted Raclette on soft boiled potatoes with cold pickled veggies and onions. It was delish. Served with a German style cole slaw it was an amazing meal. Here is the Brats apples recipe more to follow. Grab a beer and enjoy ya'll!

Brats roasted with Apples, Onions and Cherry Peppers 

8 Fresh Bratwursts from the Butcher
2 bottles of pilsner style beer
4 red apples cored and sliced into wedges
2 spanish onions also cut into wedges
6 to 8 sweet and hot cherry peppers roughly chopped

In a pot add the beer and 2 to 3 cups of cold water
Bring to a boil turn off the heat and cool for 15 mins
Add brats
Let sit in the liquid for about 30 mins
Drain and remove the brats

Turn oven on to 350

Next on a sheet pan toss the apples the onions and the peppers with some olive oil with salt and pepper and some garlic powder
Place brats on the bed of the apples and onions and place in the oven for about 20 mins then turn the brats over and place back in the oven for another 20 mins.

Remove from the oven and platter the apple and onions then top with the brats and bring to the table.
Serve with a potato side and a salad. I did a Raclette which is a traditional Swiss dish it's so easy!

15 small boiled potatoes cooled slightly and then sliced.
1 lb Raclette cheese sliced
1 large red onion sliced and quick pickled
1 large jar of Pickled Veggies
1 small jar Cornichons french styled pickles

Place the sliced potatoes in a small oven proof dishes
cover with the cheese
place in the oven till cheese melts them place under the broiler till bubbly and slightly brown
Serve with the brats and apples.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Clam Chowder Fall's First Soup from Summer's Inspiration

Not that anyone would be surprised that I am writing about a rich creamy seafood soup, but there really is more than meets the eye to my love of this soup. It's just like many dishes I have shared on this blog that have a place in my personal history or the history of my friends and family.

Clam Chowder has long been one of my favorite things since I can remember. I  just love it's texture and silken goodness, lingering on the spoon and gently cooling until it can be eaten when served up properly hot and fresh. My grandma ( Maternal)  who lived with us growing up made it sometimes at home and I loved it. When I was in college my friend Chris Schaffer introduced me to the Fish Market a chowder House in Alexandria Virginia where one paired steaming bowls of chowder with large flagons of beer. And of course it was on the menu at the D Hall (Dinning Hall) at JMU where I went to school. Later in life I attended a wedding in New England where the rehearsal dinner centered around a "Chowder and Salad Bar", which was actually really awesome.

All of these previous encounters pale when placed next to my exposure to this and various other seafood dishes during my first and subsequent stays on the Cape in Provincetown. As those of you know who read this blog I am a big fan of Provincetown in my culinary life as well as regular life adventures there. I go to Ptown every year for at least a week and no Summer would be complete for me without a trip to it's iconic shores. For me, Ptown is home to classic New England seafood dishes and what is more classic than Clam Chowder.

Now waxing poetical about Ptown is one of those things that I have done before on this blog. I think it's such iconic a place in terms of it's statuesque New England beauty, that it defies description a little. In fact for me it is really a very magical place. A place where the light and the sea and the sky all come together as one. Every year I buy a piece of art to remember my summer by. And then in the deep Winter I can gaze up at my walls and remember the glory of those magical Summer days in Ptown. When all is right with the world and there is no problem that can't be solved by spending time in the Sun doing something fun, a great happy hour at Tea Dance and an evening of cooking or dining out and going out on the town till the early hours. All around just fun.

There are many many recipes for clam chowder that vary in their ingredients and their subsequent taste and texture. Some people like a thick chowder and some like a thin chowder. Either way it equals delicious. It's all a matter of personal preference but I prefer a little body to my chowder. Thin chowder just seems sad to me. So here is my recipe for bringing the  essence of Summer seafood and Summer memories back into your kitchen and onto your table even if the Winter is raging outside. Enjoy Ya'll.

Forrest's Clam Chowder ( makes 9 cups)

For the roux 1 cup flour and 3/4 cups butter
5 bottles 8 oz of clam juice for a total of 5 cups
5 medium potatoes peeled and diced medium
2 large onions diced medium
2 stalks celery finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
6 strips of bacon diced
1 1/2 pound diced clams
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup light cream
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of sherry vinegar


In a pan saute the bacon till done remove and drain discard the grease
Saute onions and celery in the butter till soft and translucent but not brown
To this pot add the potatoes and clam juice and pepper
Bring to boil  and cook till potatoes are done then reduce heat to low
In another pot add the butter and flour and cook till slightly browned and the flour taste is cooked out
Slowly add the milk till the sauce thickens
Add the two pots together add the bacon and cream and the Worcestershire
Slowly simmer till thick and all combined. If too thick thin with milk.
Add clams just before serving then simmer a few minutes and serve.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ultimate Corn Bread Bread Recipe, Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread from the Lake Country.

I love the ocean but I also love the mountains and with the mountains I love a lake.  A lake unlike the sea is usually a contained and fathomable body of water. It sit's mirror-like in it's relation to the land around it. Playing with light and wind a lake can have many shapes, colors and moods. And like the ocean give the senses a shower of wonderful sensations.

Generally a lake is gentle and calm and shows day's colors and hews with it's prism of colors, sort of like paint on a canvas. I like to think a lake as a backdrop to life's more relaxing moments. While the ocean in turn demands my complete attention and pushes me to honor it's power. A lake takes from me the burden of life I bring to it's shore and says lie with me and rest awhile.

It is maybe part of the old dialogue between which is more attractive to one's soul and senses, the sea or the mountains. I for one can never decide for they both bring such different feelings into my world and life.

Lakes and mountains offer up living and recreation which seems to center around a frontier born sense of a camping, woodsy mentality.

The Lake and the Mountains speak to me not solely of Summer but also of the coming change in seasons.  And with the Fall almost upon us and my sense of life drawing in upon itself. Like the gathering in of crops or the light retreating slowly in the late Summer sky. I turn my focus towards the colors of the autumnal table and feeling of comfort that it affords.

I found myself last year in the Adirondack Mountains on Lake Placid to be precise. Enjoying the tables bounty of  brook trout and summer salads fresh from the local farms. Crisp air and clear water and lots of sunshine marked our days and delicious meals and wine marked our nights.

It was a good time. Lakes are a reminder for me of times in my youth and my past as well as a companion in times present.

Recently my friend Fred Tessler ( of the Denver Tesslers), shared with me a recipe for cornbread that he got from a lake retreat of his own. Seems a dear girl friend of his has a family lake house up in the lake country of Minnesota. This family would as part of their tradition host a fish fry on fridays of every week they would be at the lake house. As part of the meal they prepared cornbread amongst other dishes to go with the fish fry. He asked for the recipe and has used it ever since.

This cheddar cornbread is perhaps the best I have ever made. I had it the first time when Fred had me over to dinner one day. Then he made it with me at my place. It is somewhat set but open to personal interpretation as I noted during his preparation of the cornbread in my kitchen that day. I took this recipe and ran with it and have decided that it will forever be my go to cornbread recipe.

It is very similar to my previous recipes emulating the cornbread at Bandera Grill and Rutherford Grills respectively, but just that much better. And it's gluten free which makes it really interesting for folks trying to cut that out of their diets. But not to worry it is rich and moist and incredible. Cheesey and cake-like it IS the starter to a meal as well as an incredible side dish. It's so good it doesn't need butter.

So here make this cornbread is all I can say. It has Midwestern flavors and Southern soul. Enjoy Ya'll.

Forrest's Best-ever Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread Recipe

2 eggs
1 cup Cornmeal ( yellow or white)
1 cup creamed corn from a can
1 cup or so freshly shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 fresh jalapenos finely diced ( this is spicy if you want less heat use less or omit)


Preheat ove to 400 degrees

Mix all dry ingredients together including cheese
Add buttermilk, creamed corn and oil
Mix well

Pour into a heated medium cast iron pan or a 9x9 baking dish

Bake 30 mins till golden brown do not over bake.

Serve warm, slice and enjoy, this tastes best right out of the oven.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Swimming Pools, Officers Clubs and Barber Shoppes Oh My! Lessons about Life and Food as Learned by a Military Brat

When I was in first grade we were stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. My Daddy was stationed at JAX Naval Air Station and we lived just down the road in a little neighborhood in a part of town called Orange Park. We were living in a house on a street that to this day I love the name of, Wonder Lane.

It was the perfect street name for a perfect time. When life was new and I was so young and the world was yet unknown and unexplored. Whether that exploration took the form of Winnie the Pooh books, playing outside in the backyard or neighborhood, helping my Mama in the kitchen or just watching the shadows on the ceiling of one's bedroom late at night. After you went to bed and the drone of music on the phonograph or your Parents talking filled the quiet corners of the house.

No adult problems yet to be had, no raging teenage angst or hormones. It was the time of life when being a kid is really all there is. And everything is new and different all the time because nothing has ever been seen before. A time when expectations are almost akin to imagination. Fresh new vibrant and alive was the world and all it's possibilities. This was life as a first grader in the house on Wonder Lane.
It was the first place I have truly concrete memories.

Now I can remember our first house in Charleston  where my brother was born but only colors and shapes and a few fun times spent with my brother in the backyard playing in costumes made out of sheets and tin foil. We were knights and kings, gladiators and spacemen. Well I was my brother mostly just followed me around being so little. We had a great time.

But I don't really remember it as well as I wish I could. I recall my Daddy being gone on the carriers and sending us postcards as to where he was. Mama put up a big map of the world and we would mark "where Daddy was". I remember a certain Christmas tree that was short and had to be put up on top of a harvest table in the dinning room which was disappointing somehow.

I can recall my parents going out and entertaining in Charleston. My Mama all done up in a floor length chiffon green gown, hair piled up on her head like the hairdos from the 1960's. Looking like Julianne  Moore in that Tom Ford movie. She was so beautiful. My Daddy dressed up in his blue dress uniform looking dapper. Off to some event or ball. I can recall house parties were I was put to bed early but would peek out to the festivities. Punch Bowls filled with Artillery Punch ( a deadly mixture I hear ) and sideboards groaning with platters of food. Maybe fondue pots and chafing dishes filled with Mom's Norwegian meatballs or cocktail franks.

But I can remember Jacksonville with clarity. It was the first place I recognized that we were a military family and also realized what that meant. We lived on and amongst bases and military neighborhoods for my entire childhood. Places surrounded by barbed wire fences and gated entrances where my Mother even got a salute from the MP. guards as an Officer's wife. Driving past planes and missiles and wharfs filled with a collection of various Naval vessels the world seemed very grand and powerful indeed. And our place in it purposeful and understandable.  Daddy was in the navy protecting our country. And we were a family bound to each other like a small nomadic tribe, carrying our memories and possessions with us from billet to billet. Moving from place to place the strange familiarity of the bases brought a sort of calm to otherwise total upheaval. To this day whenever I go onto a Military base I have a quiet sense of peace and melancholy and nostalgia for what went before. Or maybe it's just a longing for that simple and satisfying time of life so long gone by. Either way it's a good feeling cause it's all part of me and who I am and the fabric of my experience here on the planet.

Now a few years later with my Daddy being stationed in Hawaii, as a very small boy I had the opportunity to climb trees and scrape knees in the beautiful setting of those magical islands. Even living in military housing on a base was cool as a kid ( although not so much for my folks). But even my Parents admitted, to this day my Mama claims, that the overall experience we had as a family in Hawaii was a blessing that shaped so much of what was to come for us.

Now there were many experiences I associate with growing up on a base in Hawaii. But three which linger with me strongly to this day center arround a particular base called Makalapa. It was a base up the mountain from our housing and near where my Daddy was stationed at Camp Smith. It was a housing billet for single officers and was a large square wooden structure maybe 5 stories tall that housed all the things that these officer's could need. It had an exchange, a small commissary, an Officer's Mess, a rec. hall and a barber shop.

One of the things most memorable things about being a small boy and which to this day I have an almost visural memory of is going to a barber shop to get my hair cut. I can remember one of my parents taking my brother and me to get our haircut at the Makalapa Officers Club. I think for most men getting a haircut has a primordial memory of some fellow with beefy hands smelling of talc and barbicide. This fellow would then pull onto you a waxy plastic apron and using clippers and shears  shear one's young locks with manly vigor and precision. Sometimes scary and always intimidating the barber was definitely an iconic figure in the pantheon of my boyhood.

At the Officer's Club barber shop there was no mistaking this was a place for men. It was a rite of passage for young one's and a duty for the adults. It was a refuge from the world of women and a bastion of community and manly conversation. Sports, tours of duty, ladies fair and the manly version of gossip ( aka bitching) were the bill of fare besides hot towel facials, shaving and haircuts. It was the first place I became aware of a ritual that would continue most of my life. And to this day I think about the bright lights and wooden walls of that barber shop with it's framed prints of naval ships and commanding officers. Every barbershop for me is Makalapa.

Then there was the swimming pool at Makalapa. It was also a place that was the scene of a world of first's for me. It was there that when asked who could swim by the swim teacher, I raised my hand and plunged into the deep end only needing to be rescued by the instructor. Oh where is that shameless abandon now when taking on life! I did learn to swim and to dive there and that started a love for water recreation that is with me to this day.

But my favorite place on the base was without a doubt the Officer's Mess. It was the scene of many a family dinner for special family nights, visiting relatives from mainland and special command occasions. It was a grand naval dining room decked out with pictures of warships and flags. Brass lighting fixtures and white linen tables set with shining glassware and plates embossed with the Makalapa crest. Manned by an army of filipino naval stewards in starched white waiter coats, the maitre de in dark blue it was the grandest of dining for young boys like myself and my brother.

It was the first time I ever knew there was a steak called a filet mignon. Grilled to meaty perfection and served wrapped in bacon it was a delicious discovery, and a memorable one. The potatoes were stuffed and twice baked and even the asparagus made you want to stand up and salute. It was in a word, fancy. You see it set my boyhood imagination on fire that magical base Makalappa.

I have on occasion to this day wanted to capture my boyish awe at the first encounters with this and other like places like this of my youth. But try as I may they allude me. I have sought out haircuts in the best salons that did not give me the thrill of those early barbershop days. I have been in amazing places with amazing pools that somehow do not revive my memory of my first almost drowning. I have in steak house after steak house, even some of the best in the country, hoped for that meal. I have never quite reached the threshold of that succulent memory.

The Officer's Mess  the pool and the barber shop were perhaps never the things I remember them being. But it like my memory of soft hot breezes and the palms around the swimming pool or the smell of the barber's talc on my neck, they are things that I will never forget. And in glimpses of living my life today I occasionally capture, if only in a flash of memory when I climb into that barber chair, the boy I was and the beauty that time held for me. Not that it was all such a bed of roses ( again my parents concur). But it was a time that I can never forget and a time that made me part of who I am. For that I am grateful, as well as all the other nonsense that went into growing up in the Navy as a kid.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hippy Dippy California Burning Man Kale Salad with "Goddess" Dressing

So several years ago I met a group of people through my friend Stuart who attend something called the Burning Man Festival. Now for those of you, like myself, who do not know anything about Burning Man it can be summed up in one word, sandy. Well, you will see why.

According to Wikipedia:

Burning Man is a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States. The event begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September, which coincides with the American Labor Day holiday. The 2012 Burning Man Festival took place between August 27 and September 3. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday evening. The event is described as an experiment in community, art, and radical self-expression. Burning Man is organized by Black Rock City LLC.  In 2010, 51,515 people attended Burning Man. 2011 attendance was capped at 50,000 participants and the event sold out on July 24.  In April 2011, Larry Harvey announced that the organization had begun the process of transitioning management of the festival over to a new non-profit organization called the "Burning Man Project".

So what this excerpt doesn't tell you is that it's a massive community effort on the part of the people there to leave no visible footprint. That means what came in goes out. And with 50,000 people in attendance that's no small feat. It's really interesting.

Of course ultimately it's all about experience at burning man. Partying, drinking. drugs. music and art all collide in a sort of hippy spirited free living environment where social norms are challenged as free thinking takes it's summer holiday.

The event is divided into groupings called camps. Each camp has a theme and a proposed purpose. Some self involved and other open and public. There are whole camps which are focused on music, dance, and even food. One of the most interesting was one I heard about that offered showers. And then there's one that just makes bacon all day and night. Hello Bacon! I would have been there all the time. I know my burner friends are cringing.

So what does this have to do with Kale Salad. Well let me tell you. Nothing really except as a segue into talking a little about the Hippy movement of the 1960's.

Years ago when California became a hotbed of the so called Hippy Movement, it also became the home for the first serious vegetarian food movement in this country. Why, well because one of the outgrowths of this culture was an awareness of nature and naturalism as it applies to life, including what and how one eats. This led to the growth of the vegan raw and vegetarian food culture in the west and this went on to inspire California chefs in their first looks at a farm to table cooking mentality. Isn't connectivity an interesting thing.

One of the hallmarks of the early California raw, vegan, and vegetarian food trends was a heightened awareness of produce and sourcing fresh foods. Another was also the further development of the salad as a meal concept.

Of course California had led the way in pretty inventing the "Salad Meal" with the introduction of such dishes as the Cobb Salad ( introduced in LA. at the very famous Brown Derby restaurant) or the Crab Louis Salad ( which was introduced much earlier in San Francisco). Or the Caesar Salad which came out of prohibition era Tijauna Mexico, where wealthy Californians would go to escape the liquor laws.

Further in the 1950's and 60's Sunset magazine introduced the US readers to a variety of Salad meals like these. Some of which, like the Taco Salad, are so common today one would never think that it was not a known quantity everywhere in the US. all the time.

Another hallmark of the Hippy driven vegetarian food movement was a moving away from animal fat based sauces and dressings. As a result there are interesting and delicious ingredients that when used together make for very nice results. As with everything this movement moved into main stream culture in California and helped to shape California cuisine.

One such dressing that has become as famous over time as ranch dressing, especially on the west coast is something called "Goddess" dressing. The name comes from another dressing very popular in the 1960's  "Green Goddess" which is rich in dairy and not vegan. So goddess dressing was the vegan version of this using tahini (sesame paste)  as the base and incorporating other flavors to make a rich creamy satisfying dressing without the dairy.

As I continue to experiment with Kale Salads I have made my own version of this dressing. It's so good you can put it on anything. Annie's all natural products and Trader Joe's make a version of this that is really good but making it at home makes it a little better I think.

And I put together a Kale salad recipe that I think is as good as any Californian Vegan Hippy Dippy Chef would make. Maybe even a little better....but that's for you to decide. Enjoy Ya'll.

California Style Kale Salad with "Goddess" Dressing

1 bag of kale stems removed or 1 bunch kale stems removed both options cut into small pieces or ribbons
2 small carrots shredded
4 radishes sliced thinly
2 tablespoon sesame seeds white/black mixed
10 oz baby bella mushrooms quartered and lightly sauteed and cooled and drained
1/2 medium red onion finely diced
1 bunch mint leaves finely chopped
1 bunch parsley finally chopped
2 green onions diced on a bias
1/4 cup crushed parmesan croutons or toasts ( optional leave out if you want this salad gluten free)

Mix all ingredients except sesame seeds and green onion pieces in a big salad bowl and toss generously with "goddess" dressing, garnish the top with the sesame seeds and the green onions.

"Goddess Dressing"

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Tahini paste (plain)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
5 whole green onions chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce (if you have it)
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons dried parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
  water as needed to thin out if desired

Place everything in a food processor and blend till smooth
Will keep covered for up to two weeks in the fridge

Thursday, August 15, 2013

BBQ Chicken with Spicy Yogurt Sauce and Blistered Tomato Cous Cous

Every year I go on vacation to Provincetown on the cape in Massachusetts. Now the first thing one thinks about when one thinks about Cape Cod is  probably of course seafood. Well that may well be the predominant flavor profile of the Cape but when it comes to vacationing there or anywhere grilling out is always popular.

American's grill everything these days and so do I. I love the way the grill just flavors up everything from steaks to corn to scallops and eggplant. In fact I think things just plain taste better when they are cooked outside on the grill. And if the current issue of Food and Wine magazine is correct it is chicken, not steak actually is the biggest thing on American's grill favorites list right now.

Growing up partly in Hawaii I have spoken about the Kamato grill before on this blog. Nowadays, marketed as the Big Green Egg, the Kamato is a Japanese style grill that is made of clay and has the perfect shape to not only BBQ and grill things but smoke them as well. It delivered a flavor that is hard to beat and to this day I miss having a grill like that. It was in Hawaii that my Father taught my brother and myself to grill. This tutelage  included how to prep the food as well as how to prep the grill and then how to cook the food, all using the Kamato. It was one of those wonderful father and son moments that are somehow too rare in our lives and the whole "Man, Fire, Food thing seemed to come alive for me.

Now my Dad made many things out there on the Lanai in that Kamato ( yes, I just used the word Lanai)  and I thought that I would share one of the dishes that I have come to love as a result of those grilling lessons long long ago.

Now to say that this recipe came about because of some sense memory about grilling with my Dad years ago would be a stretch. It actually came about in an attempt to cook something for my vacation housemates that would be slightly more on the healthy and interesting side. And again to be truthful this recipe is really about the sauce and not the BBQ'ed chicken. But that's because Life is better with Bacon and Sauce. By the way, that is the working title of the cook book I am working on presently. I will keep you all abreast of any developments there.

So back to the recipe, like all great chicken dishes it starts with the prep of the chicken, this is very simple. Chicken thighs are marinated for about an hour in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder and dried thyme. Then grilled till just done. Served over couscous that is generously buttered and into which is mixed chopped chives and cherry tomatoes that have been baked in the oven till they pop and the skins blister and dry out a little. This is then smothered in a yogurt sauce that has indian style spices and garlic. Delicious. I will say that it's not complicated but very good. Enjoy Ya'll.

BBQ Chicken with Spicy Yogurt Sauce and Blistered Tomato Cous Cous

For the Cous Cous

Place 1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and toss lightly with olive oil and salt
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place tomatoes in the oven for about 20 to 30 mins checking occasionally to see if they have split open and are roasting but not drying out or burning.
Remove from oven and hold on the side
Take 1 package 8 to 10 oz Israeli Cous Cous prepared according to the package directions
When finished cooked and still hot stir in 3 tablespoons of RT butter and 1/2 cup chopped chives
Gently stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken

Place 6 chicken thighs i a shallow bowl season with salt and pepper and dried thyme and pour over 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil let sit for 30 mins up to 4 hours in the fridge.

Remove chicken from the marinade and place on a plate
Over a medium grill
Grill chicken till done and golden brown with a little crusty edge ( make sure it's cooked through)

Place on a clean plate and hold warm till serving.

For the Sauce

1 and 1/2 cup greek yogurt plain
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon hot sauce ( Siracha)
Handful chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
Taste if too bitter for your liking add more sugar and a touch more oil
Mix well and hold

To serve place the cous cous on a serving platter, top with the chicken and then pour  some of the sauce over the chicken serve the rest on the side. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve!
Enjoy Ya'll.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Southern Crab, Avocado and Basil Green Goddess Rice Salad, Summer just got better.

OK I know I know stop posting about rice Forrest! First it's that risotto dish that from the hits is not doing well in the readership polls....sorry? But now a rice salad, I mean come on this is 2013 we don't eat rice salad in the hallowed halls of foodie America anymore or the carb conscious society we live in. Well then hold on my foodie friends cause I have a whole new twist on bringing back a little life to an overlooked starch. And carbs aren't bad they just need to be eaten in moderation.

Now when I was growing up in the USA we as a country ate a lot of white rice. Probably still do. But in my house it did not make major appearances on the dinner table unless we were having Chinese food or a specific dish that screamed for it. The reason was my father had eaten so much rice growing up he never wanted to eat it that often. So other starches graced our dinner table and rice was a reserved treat.

However, generally in the South rice is something that regionally is either very widely eaten or not really eaten at all. Coastal areas in the Carolinas and Virginia as well as the Gulf states and New Orleans in particular are bastions of rice culinary prowess. I mean Mondays are red beans and rice day in New Orleans and what Carolina seafood buffet would not be graced with some flavored or dirty rice. And of course tex-mex cuisine is full of red rice dishes.

But white rice as we eat it mostly in the USA is a buttered side dish best enjoyed with salt and pepper or smothered in some kind of gravy and served along with a protein. Chicken and rice comes to mind as does  Pork Chops and onions. ( Remember the Brady Bunch and Peter's "Pork chops....and Applesauce".  Well either way it's sort of a filling side with a rather bland flavor profile.

Another somewhat forgotten way of serving rice comes from the finest luncheon parties of the ladies of the American South. Yes in the 20's 30's and up through the 1970's rice salads were a major player on menus offered during ladies auxiliary meetings all over the South. In the low country of South Carolina rice salads featuring seafoods were very prevalent. Usually lightly flavored rice with a delicate flavor was mounded on a bed of tender lettuces and topped with a choice of seafoods or shellfish and finished off with something like canned or poached asparagus or fresh tomatoes and maybe a hard boiled egg.

Well I was entertaining a few ladies the other day and decided that I would take this idea and turn it around in a modern way. So to make my rice salad I thought about flavoring the rice more and adding the seafood ( I chose to use crab) directly into the mixture.

Now also in keeping with my love of green summery foods I thought I would try and flavor the rice with a herbal dressing. But I didn't stop there, I also added something I knew would add to the creaminess of the rice with out adding oil or mayonnaise, avocado! Yes avocado and rice actually go quite well together and it certainly goes with crab.

Then instead of serving it on a bed of lettuce I thought about turning it on it's head and topping it off with some greens, fancy tomatoes and a touch of goat cheese. All in all it turned out pretty darned good. And it looked like this.

Fancy huh? Well it's actually super easy and quick. It made for a delicious warm evening dinner and had everyone very happy. So give it a try and give your dinner time a little southern seafood magic. Enjoy ya'll.

Southern Crab and Avocado and Basil Green Goddess Rice Salad

1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
3 cups either water or seafood stock flavored with some garlic powder and salt
1 can of jumbo lump crab drained
2 med avocados
about 1 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
3 garlic cloves crushed
4 tablespoons lemon juice
snow peas cut both into small pieces and longwise in half
4 green onions sliced on the bias separate the whites and greens
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup of water
salt and pepper
small yellow or red tomatoes sliced in half
1 cup baby arugula
crumbled goat cheese such as Cherve
Note* ( you could add finely chopped red pepper as well that would bump up the color and goes well with the crab but I didn't have any)


Rinse the rice a couple of times in a strainer under cold water to remove starch ( helps rice not stick)
Add the stock or water, the garlic powder and big pinch of salt and the rice to a pot
Bring to boil and let cook about 13 to 15 mins till done remove from heat and fluff with fork.
While the rice is cooking peel and chop the avocado and place it, the basil, the green onion whites, the garlic, lemon juice into a blender
Start to blend and slowly and add olive oil in a drizzle till it becomes rich and creamy and about the consistency of sour cream. If too thick thin using the water a little at a time until you get to where you want it to be. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Add to the rice and combine. Stir in the greens of the green onion and the snow peas
Taste and season to taste
Stir in the crab gently
Check again for seasoning.

To serve use a mold and place in the center of the plate and carefully un-mold on the plate
Then top with the arugula, tomato pieces goat cheese crumbles season with maldon and drizzle a little olive and balsamic vinegar over the greens and around the plate as garnish.

Serve immediately. ( You could make the "timbals" ahead of time and using a spatula place them on the plate when ready to serve ), Enjoy Ya'll.