Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blueberry Cobbler, a Memorial Day Weekend Food and Why I Remember that It's not just Summer We are Celebrating.

My parents married later in Life. I mean they were in their thirties when they married and then waited a few years before having children, namely me and my brother. As such they were older than most of my school mates parents. This was unknown to me as a child because my Mother kept her age a secret fearing that having older parents would make kids have strange ideas. Fortunately, my Mother's gene pool was such that no one would have known she was 10 years older than my classmates mothers. In fact she was ( and is) quite a looker!

This age disparagement also went the other way when it came to my Father's family and my relatives on his side. My Father was 16 years younger than his next oldest sibling! That's right, he was what they called "tail-end Charlie". Or in some families a "surprise"! My Big Mama was over 40 when she had my Dad and his oldest sister was 25! So you can imagine the age difference I had growing up with my next  oldest cousins being 14 and 16 years older than me. It was kinda fun cause you were always the young ones. Well, until everyone had kids then we were just sort of in the mix somewhere.

One thing about having relatives that were older was all of my Father's brothers served in the military during World War II. Some were in the behind the lines kinda jobs but some were in the worst fighting of the war. All my blood relatives survived. Only my Aunt Lucy's husband was killed in action. He was killed at the battle on Monte Casino where our army encountered a stronghold held by a battalion of Hitler Youth. A sad and terrible battle and one which should never have happened.

 John Gandy was his name, and growing up I only knew my Aunt Lucy as my Aunt who lived with my Big Mama in the  house Lucy owned in Walhalla, South Carolina. I had never known my Aunt as a married woman, but looking back I sense there was a deep sadness in her life. Never was spoken about, and I never asked about it, but it was something I just sensed. I think this unspoken sadness was a part of many WWII veterans experience. My uncles being no exception, I mean we won the war and being sad or depressed about it seemed sort of counterintuitive to the sense of victory. So many suffered in silence. Unable or unwilling to speak about the deep feelings of anger, loss and depression they might have.

My aunt was always very nice to me and my brother. We spent many a night at Big Mama and Lucy's house when visiting during the summers. Sleeping in the damp basement in metal twin beds with patchwork quilts and cotton sheets and listening to the hum of the air conditioner fan as it whirled around. We would pick tomatoes in the garden and eat fresh corn and ham for lunch. We would go on hikes with our cousins to waterfalls in the mountains and our Uncle Frank would put us to work in his field. We had a lot of fun as little boys will.

Lucy was an accomplished and somewhat well known regional water colorist. We still have many of her paintings gracing the walls in my Mother's as well as other relative's houses. I can just see her coming out for coffee and cereal in the mornings, her short dark hair pulled back and wearing her white robe with pink flowers on it. Then at the large dark wood dining table, lighting up a cigarette at breakfast to go with her paper and coffee and speaking in her purposeful southern drawl about the news of the day. My Aunt Lucy is gone now but I still remember her and the Uncle I never knew.

Not many of my friends growing up had relatives that were directly in WWII. They for the most part were the generation right after the war. So this family dialogue of personal history and involvement, along with the fact that I grew up in a Navy Family, made me hyper aware of what the holiday we celebrate as Memorial Day was all about. I mean growing up I was surrounded by war monuments and military memorials in my neighborhood as well as on every base we lived near or on.

Remembering sacrifice is something the military does well. I think that over the years we as a culture have ceased to look at this reality. I speak of the reality that some people before us died to enable us to live the free and enterprising lives we live today. Not to remember that is a big mistake and flies in the face of history. We may not believe that war is a good thing, and it's not, but even today we have many people in our armed forces sacrificing their lives and limbs to keep our world a safer place. And even if you don't agree with all the politics, you have to agree that sacrifice which is given freely and for the betterment of the common good deserves note. And those people sacrificing deserve some honor.

So lets not just celebrate Summer. Lets also celebrate those people who helped us celebrate life, by sacrificing theirs, so we can celebrate our lives whatever and however we want.

So here's to you Uncle John. Who I never knew except by word. And who gave your life. So my life could be the wonderful strife free life it has been. Knowing little of war and aggression during my time here on the planet. May all people everywhere come someday to know that peace. And may it come in a manner that does not exact the same sacrifice you made. All I can say today is, thank you Uncle John.
I remember you.

In the spirit of the holiday and the unofficial start of Summer it is here's a recipe that makes me think of my Father's Family. Every year I went to Walhalla my Uncle Frank would take my brother and I blueberry picking, then my Aunt would make a cobbler. I have made this recipe over the past few years in homage to that memory I hope you enjoy it!

Walhalla Blueberry Cobbler With Granola Nut crust

3 pints fresh blueberries ( fresh is better or 2 1lb. bags thawed frozen)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups granola cereal
1/2 cup crushed or slivered nuts ( your choice )
1 stick butter melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix sugar and berries and lemon juice in a bowl and pour into a 9 x13 baking dish
Mix the rest of the ingredients and top the berries with a even layer of the topping
Bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees till top is browned and the berries are juicy
Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 mins
Serve while still warm with good vanilla ice cream
Start smiling!
Enjoy ya'll

Friday, May 17, 2013

Two Bruschetta for your Spring and Summer Outdoor Al Fresco Dining San Diego Style

For every drop of rain that falls in San Diego I think a thousand flowers grow. It is really something to catch this town in full bloom. Flower boxes everywhere and the yards. while small by Mid-Western standards, hold little pockets of color, spicing up an otherwise urban feel. California as I can see has foliage that most of the country would love to have around. The name the "golden state" refers to the hue the place gets after the green of spring slowly makes it way into the summer's less rainy and more dry conditions. But let me say I was there on the cusp of Spring and the blooms were coming out and the grass was bright green. It was lovely.

The other thing you notice as a visitor to San Diego is the outdoor life. Truly amazing in it's scope I think I never saw more people moving and walking and playing in the park and everywhere than in San Diego. The weather is awesome and the bugs are not bad. It's simply awesome.

One aspect of this outdoor living is dining outside or Al Fresco. It's a pleasure to sit in the dry cool evening air and partake of fresh foods with family or friends. I had the pleasure of doing just that a number of times while I was visiting.

My friend's house has a lovely backyard with a large dining table and chairs, seating area, fire pit and pool with a deck. And it's not a big yard, just well used space. In fact it seems that anyone in this San Diego neighborhood with a little imagination, elbow grease, and a penchant for buying things on Ebay or Craig's List, could actually create themselves a little bit of outdoor heaven. And from the look of the neighbor's homes many have. That all being said, I was just happy to be so well entertained!

One evening I was charged with preparing the dinner and while we were hungry we had all had a large lunch and did not feel the need for a large meal. So I came up with the idea of making bruschetta for dinner. Now this was a dinner I had first had in New York when a good friend invited me over and made "oven" bruschetta. Now I was used to the idea that bruschetta are served cold or at room temperature. This preparation turned the bruschetta into a sort of mini pizza. And who doesn't like pizza! So these little morsels with a big green salad made for a really delicious meal.

Now the only challenge for me was what to toppings to pick for the bruschetta. I came up with two which are Italian in nature but a little more Americano in execution. The first was a twist on plain ole artichoke topping. I zipped it up essentially turning it into Artichoke dip and topping it with that. The other was a play on the old classic tomato but mixed in sausage and diced red peppers and onions and sort of made it a play on a grinder. Baked in the oven they came out warm and delicious. I think they also could have been grilled if the grill had be on and summertime I will test that theory. In any event they are perfect for a backyard feast. Enjoy, Ya'll!

Backyard or Oven Bruschetta Two Ways

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and or light grill

For both bruschetta's you will need a loaf of french bread cut into 1/2 inch slices, then sprinkled liberally with olive oil and baked till just crisp not browned in the oven

Artichoke Bruschetta

1 can Artichoke hearts drained
1/4 cup Mayonaise
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl mash together till well combined not in a food processor
Top bread slices with mixture
Bake in oven or grill till heated through and slightly browned

Sausage and Peppers Bruschetta

2 Roma tomatoes seeded and diced into cubes
1 small red bell pepper seeded and diced into cubes
2 links italian cooked sausage cubed
1/2 smal red onion diced
6 basil leaves cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices of provolone cut into quarters

Place all ingredients except  parm and ricotta and provolone in a small bowl and mix till combined
mix parm and ricotta
Top  bread lightly with the ricotta mixture then topping mixture
Top with the provolone pieces
Bake in a 350 degree oven or grill till heated through and the cheese is really melted


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BBQ Chillequilles Benedict with BBQ Beef, Poached Eggs, and Smoked Cheddar Hollandaise

I realize that it's a little past Cinco de Mayo but here's my Mexican recipe for the holiday week!
And again I am going to reference Snooze. Yes the San Diego eatery I was able to patronize twice while visiting that fair city. Last time I talked about the breakfast potpie. This time I am taking it South of the Border!

On the menu along with various "Benedict" dishes was a dish called "Chillequilles Benedict". Now chillequilles are a Mexican food which has it's roots in the street foods of that country. It's a very popular dish there, however, here in the states it's only widely known in California and some parts of the west and as of late also here in New York.

Essentially Chillequilles are a form of nachos. They are chips over which a green creamy sauce is poured and the dish is normally topped with a fried egg and maybe some meat. Like say chorizo sausage or something along those lines. They are quite good but the Snooze folks took this idea and took it a step further.

To make the Chillequilles Benedict they took tortillas, cut them into small rounds about the size of an english muffin. Dipped them in green sauce and stacked and baked them. Topped them with a pulled beef with Mexican spices and a poached egg. Then to finish it they pour a smoked gouda hollandaise over them and serve it with fresh salsa and some feta cheese. Oh my is it good.

To make this at home I changed it up a little bit. I wanted to combine mexican flavors and southern BBQ and make BBQ Chillequilles. The results were awesome. The rich flavors of chilles mixing with the deep smoke of both the BBQ and the cheddar was wonderful. SO here's the recipe, give it a try for brunch one day when you are up for a challenge. I kept is pretty simple using mostly premade foods which while not ideal makes for an easy as Sunday morning prep on this one. The hardest thing is poaching the eggs if you are near a Trader's Joes. (which is where I sourced all my stuff!) Enjoy!

BBQ Chillequilles Benedict with BBQ Beef, Poached Eggs, and Smoked Cheddar Hollandaise

*So you can start with large corn tortilla's and cut them with a ring mold of some kind or if your store has them you can use little mini tortillas.


5 mini or cut tortillas per stack 2 stacks per person
1 jar or green salsa from trader joes and one can of green enchilada sauce combined
1 package of fresh salsa
3 onces of crumbled feta cheese
8 eggs
1 package of trader joe's hollandaise
6 oz shredded smoked cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons mayo
8 oz of BBQ beef brisket pre done or purchased

To Assemble:

Take the green sauce and place into a shallow dish
Dip each tortilla lightly in the sauce and on a baking sheet make 8 stacks of the moist tortillas
Top each stack with room temp BBQ beef
Place the stacks in a warm oven 300 degrees and start poaching the eggs
Add the hollandaise the cheese and the mayo to a small sauce pot and heat slowly till combined and creamy. If not fluid enough add a little water till desired consistency is achieved.
To prepare place the tortilla and beef stacks on plates.
Top with an egg and cover with a blanket of sauce
Serve with a dallop of Salsa and sprinkle with the feta. Serve with the hash browns from my blog about breakfast pot pie! Enjoy!