Seafood Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil)

Seafood is good with me, any way you want to prepare it, from sashimi to fish n chips. But my favorite way to enjoy it is Fra Diavolo style. Fresh fish and shellfish, in a spicy Italian broth, with pasta or just a hot loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of wine, seems suitable for almost any occasion…. Or no occasion, would be fine too!

Ingredients:
Serves 4

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 cherrystone clams
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
12 diver scallops, cleaned well to remove any sand
3 TBSP good Olive Oil
1 medium Onion chopped
2 fresh jalapeno peppers green or red chopped (remove ribs and seeds to reduce heat if
desired.
5 cloves garlic chopped
1tsp Crushed Red Pepper (more or less depending on heat of the jalapenos)
1 Cup dry white wine
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp dry oregano
¼ tsp dry thyme
1 14 ½ oz can good diced tomatoes
3 TBSP chopped parsley

Preparation:

Saute’ Onion over medium heat in Olive Oil until it starts to turn translucent
Add jalapeno and salt, saute’ for another 2-3 minutes
Add garlic, pepper flakes, oregano and thyme and saute’ for another 2 minutes
Add the cup of white wine and let it come to a strong simmer for 4-5 minutes
Add the tomatoes and liquid, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Allow to simmer for at least
10-15 minutes.
Return to medium/med hi heat and add clams and mussels stirring occasionally until they
begin to open.
Once clams and mussels are all opening, add scallops and stir in gently for 2 minutes
Add shrimp and stir in gently. Cook until shrimp are curled and pink, 2-3 minutes.
Immediately transfer to a serving bowl/platter and dress with chopped fresh parsley.

Serve over pasta or in bowls with lots of fresh crusty bread!

Buon Appetito! Dave

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

 

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Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers

When my beautiful wife and I moved back to NJ from Houston years ago, perhaps the most anticipatory part of it for me was that I would once again have easy access to restaurants serving authentic Italian food.  Texans, don’t pile on!  I know that in the last 20 years,Texas has experienced a renaissance in dining out options, especially in the Houston and Dallas areas.  However, in the early 80’s, if we wanted good Italian we had no choice but to break out Gramma Rinaldi’s worn & torn recipe cards and try to create it ourselves.

So, I arrived back in Jersey as I usually arrive anywhere we go…. visions of food and drink dancing in my head…. Linguini with clam sauce, Eggplant Parmigiana, Veal Scallopini and Saltimbocca…….  And luckily we found OUR Italian Restaurant almost immediately.  Rillo’s, ahh Rillo’s Restaurant was the Mother Lode of Italian food in our part of Northern NJ.  Smallish by most standards, but always busy with local regulars dining, drinking and communing behind plates of steaming hot Northern Italian specialties prepared by a kitchen team that belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Hot bread always, fresh, cold salads and antipasto, beautiful desserts, and good Italian wines by the glass…… Yeah, Heaven is probably a lot like Rillo’s.

It wasn’t long before I tried what would become my favorite Italian dish.  Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers is definitely not what you would call “classic” Italian fare, but any good Italian Restaurant that has pork chops on the menu will know what you mean and be happy to prepare it for you if you ask.  At Rillo’s, it was the standard Pork Chop dish on the menu and was available either “hot”, “sweet”, or “mixed”, depending on how you like your peppers.  Vinegar peppers, by the way, are simply pickled cherry peppers.

Since it’s my favorite, I’ve tinkered with it at home quite a bit over the years.  I actually have the recipe to the point that eating it brings me right back to that great little restaurant where I spent so many Friday and Saturday nights in the 80’s.  Sadly, Rillo’s is but a sweet memory for me and many others, but making a meal with this dish and a nice bottle of Valpolicella or Amarone will allow you a glimpse into those memories.  I hope you will enjoy it!

Ingredients:

6 Pork Loin Chops, Center Cut, Bone In

1 Medium Sweet Onion sliced or chopped

6 Garlic Cloves chopped

1 tsp Dried Oregano

12 Pickled peppers (hot, sweet or comb) sliced

4 TBSP Pickled Pepper Juice

2 TBSP Olive Oil

Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Pat chops dry with a paper towel. Salt & Pepper both sides.

Preheat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-hi heat and add Olive Oil.

When oil is hot, add 3 of the chops and brown about 3 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate   and repeat with other 3 Chops.

After removing chops, add onions.  Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes.

Add Garlic.  Stir for 1-2 minutes.

Add sliced peppers.  Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

Add Pepper Juice and Oregano.  Stir until it just starts to boil.  Pickled peppers vary in saltiness, so this is a good time to taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Return Chops (& juices) to pan one at a time and cover with onion and pepper mixture.

Cover pan and place in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.

OPTIONAL

A couple of potatoes, sliced thin, and fried golden brown can be added to this when plating if you like, and it’s terrific.  It also goes well with a baked potato or just a thick slice of bread to mop up the juices.

I know you will enjoy this!

Dave

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

 

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West Indies Style Salmon in Foil

I grew up landlocked in the Midwest andWest Texas.  For me, seafood was a fried shrimp basket or catfish fillets dredged in cornmeal and fried golden brown.  Until I found myself on the west coast as a 19 year old Navy Corpsman, the idea of eating a piece of fish that had never been frozen and hadn’t swum in a deep fryer seemed completely foreign.  Fortunately, the San Diego waterfront and a Navy paycheck, which was big enough to allow an occasional off base meal, combined to give me the opportunity to expand my food horizons to include the wonders of “Catch of the Day”.  I fell in love with Snapper, Yellowtail, Pacific Salmon, and whatever other “fruits of the sea” my limited budget allowed.

After the Navy I found myself in College and waiting tables at a family oriented, seafood chain restaurant.  Before or after a shift, employees could eat meal for a discounted price, and being on a student budget, I almost always took advantage of this perk.  One of the line cooks at the restaurant was a Trinidad native named Isaac.  Isaac noticed that I almost always opted for a simple broiled fillet of something and, sharing my passion, always volunteered to prepare it for me himself… always perfectly.  One day, before the busy lunch shift, Isaac informed me that he was making me lunch the way his mother often prepared it for him!  “West Indies style, Mon.” I couldn’t wait for my shift to be over and spent the next 2+ hours imagining what it would be.

When the shift was over, I informed him that I was finished with my side work and ready for my lunch.  20 minutes later I was presented with a large plate, on which sat a rather crude looking foil pouch, puffed up with steam and emanating a luscious odor.  The only accompaniment was a small bowl of rice.  Isaac instructed me to carefully tear open the top of the pouch, eat its contents, and let him know what I thought.  Yea, it WAS like opening a Christmas present!  Inside the foil I found a beautiful piece of salmon, surrounded by diced onion, bell pepper and fresh tomato, all sitting in a steaming pool of its own broth and smelling like heaven with a splash of hot sauce!

To say that this dish left an impression on me doesn’t really do it justice.  The fact that 35 or so years later, it is still my favorite way to prepare almost any kind of fish, and that I do it often, does.  It is really simple and can be done as easily on the grill as in the oven.  It can be done with any fish you would eat well done, meaning I wouldn’t use sushi grade tuna.  However, my beautiful wife and I have enjoyed swordfish, flounder, cod, and yes, even fresh Atlantic Bluefish prepared this way.  I am using salmon in the recipe, both as an homage to Isaac’s original preparation and because even my peeps in West Texas can get a good piece of salmon for dinner!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ingredients:

1 lb Salmon Fillet cut into 2-8oz portions

1 Medium Onion Diced (about 1 cup)

1 Red or Green Bell Pepper Diced (about 1 cup)

1 Medium Tomato Diced (about 1 cup)

2 Cloves Garlic Finely Chopped

1 tsp Tabasco Sauce for medium heat. Adjust according to tolerance

1TBSP fresh lemon or lime juice

½ tsp Kosher Salt

½ tsp Ground Pepper

Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

Place each fillet on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to have 6-8 inches extra on one      side & fold completely over so the edges come together.

Mix Onion, Pepper, Tomato, Garlic, Tabasco, Lemon or Lime juice and seasonings together in a bowl.

Spoon Mixture equally over fillets.

Fold foil from one side, over the fillet and bring the edges of foil together.

Starting on either the top or the bottom, begin folding the foil at 45 degree angles and working around the foil until the fish is sealed inside the foil.  Don’t make it too tight as it will expand with steam.  You are trying to keep the liquid in the pouch while it cooks and there is no extra credit for neatness the first time!

Place pouches in an oven proof baking dish and place in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

These usually produce quite a bit of broth, so I usually serve it in a shallow bowl.  Using a knife and fork you can easily remove the contents from the pouch in the bowl. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve with rice, potato or a hot loaf of crunchy French Bread.

Have fun with this.  Hope you love it!

Dave

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

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Cauliflower Steak??

I have seen a few recipes touting eggplant “steak” and even tried a couple.  While they are usually a tasty accompaniment to a meal which includes a protein of some kind, the term “steak” leads me to believe the main ingredient can stand on it’s own, with a side or two to help it shine, of course.  Unfortunately, unless the sides are piping hot Mozzarella and Marinara, oh, that would be Eggplant Parmigiana wouldn’t it…. Anyway, you see my point.  Which leads me to the subject of today’s recipe and what to call it.

My beautiful wife and I were contemplating what to grill for dinner one gorgeous summer afternoon at the Jersey Shore.  Happy hour had already begun under the big patio umbrella, so when I discovered there were only frozen proteins in our refrigerator, I was inclined to “make do” with what we had.  Hmmmm, I wonder what I could do with that nice big head of cauliflower and the grill?  Let’s see…. I could hack it up and roast it in an aluminum pan… Nah too boring.  I could quarter it and roast it… Nah, it never seems to get done in the middle before burning on the outside.  I know.  Let’s try getting a couple of thick slices and grilling them like a steak!

What I wound up with was an amazing, veggie “steak” that was perfectly al dente and also had that deep grilled flavor which you just can’t get any other way than on the grill.  Does it stand alone, not really.  But, it’s perfect as a side to steak or chicken and combined with a salad and another veg, say, asparagus or grilled corn, it would be the centerpiece of a great vegetarian meal.  So, I’m choosing to call them steaks.  You may call them whatever you want, but they are definitely easy enough to make and good enough to eat to make them worth your while to try!

There are really only two tricks to making this dish.  The first is cutting a head of cauliflower so that it yields 2 “steaks”.  Leave the leaves on and cut it in half straight through the middle of the stem.  Stand each half straight up and make a parallel cut to yield about a 2” think steak.  You will have about 1/3 of the head left after cutting the steaks, which you can use for another dish or roast with the steaks in aluminum foil or a pan.  The second trick is in grilling them.  You want your grill at around 400 degrees but you only want medium heat directly under the cauliflower, so it doesn’t burn.  If using charcoal, keep the bulk of it to one side of the grill with a single layer under the cooking area.  With gas, use medium-low heat under the cauliflower and control the heat with another burner.

Ingredients:

1 Head of Cauliflower

2 TBSP Olive Oil or Canola Oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground Pepper

Cut the Cauliflower Steaks as described above

Brush both sides with Oil

Salt and Pepper evenly on both sides.

Grill as described above for about 30 minutes, turning once with tongs.

Serve like a Steak!

I hope you will try this and enjoy it as much as we do!

Dave

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

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Breakfast In Santa Fe

My beautiful wife and I had planned a side trip to Santa Fe, when we were visiting family in West Texas a couple years ago.  Two things that are always constants for me are:  I’m the first one who’s in if there is a trip being planned to anywhere, and as soon as I know where I’m going, I start thinking about what’s good to eat there.  So,  Santa Fe immediately begins conjuring up visions of red chile this and green chile that… fresh hot corn tortillas served with everything.  Dreams of carne adovado, piping hot posole, made to order chips still sizzling in the basket, with home made guacomole and pico de gallo had me chomping at the bit to hurry up and get to New Mexico!

Being a somewhat anal trip planner at heart, (my family calls me Mr. Clipboard!) I had done my homework.   I had a list of possible eateries and bars neatly printed up, with pros and cons for each, for when we would inevitably have trouble deciding, “which one next”. Said list was kept in a secure place and was third only behind Wallet and Car Keys on the pre-flight checklist as we left West Texas for The Land of Enchantment.  Mouth watering, I pointed the car west and set the cruise control for 5mph over the speed limit….. and we’re off!

We arrived in Santa Fe, checked into our beautiful little Casita (with a fireplace!), and went exploring…. a fantastic afternoon in a beautiful city, completed by a wonderful meal from one of the restaurants on the list.  Margaritas, tamales, enchiladas, carne adovado, red chile, green chile…… it was Southwest Heaven!  Travel days are the hardest, so it was back to the Casita, a little fire in the hearth, and soon I was dreaming about tomorrow’s dinner.

I blame it on the mountain elevation and the fact that we did go to bed on the early side the night before.    Whatever the reason, I woke up hungry the next morning.  No problem, let’s go eat, right?  Right, but my restaurant list only contemplated lunches, happy hours and dinners.  Do they even eat breakfast here?  Fortunately the desk clerk confirms that, yes, they do eat breakfast in Santa Fe and yes, there is a really good “locals” place in walking distance, which she highly recommends!  We can be there in 10 minutes if we hurry.

So, about 5 minutes later, we walk into this cool little place.  It’s all done in shabby southwest with heavy tile floors and it smells amazing.  It’s only open for breakfast and lunch, and it’s busy.  As we are being taken to our table I do a quick but thorough recon of what everybody has on their plates as we walk by.  I see people dipping fresh hot corn tortillas into egg yolks and red and green chile.  Oh yeah, I’m going to like breakfast in Santa Fe!  Whoa, is that lady eating eggs over a plate of black beans?  No potatoes? Nobody has potatoes?  Wow, I might actually be able to talk about this meal with my Internist when I get home!

What a great breakfast it was.  Eggs over easy, spicy black beans, sliced avocado and tomato, and fresh hot corn tortillas that somebody’s mother made by hand in the kitchen that morning.  OK, I had a big side of guacamole too, but I am on vacation!  The point is, no meat, no potatoes, and no toast slathered with butter on this plate.  The other cool thing is, this breakfast really satisfies that morning hunger and stays with you.  Little did I know that this was to become a staple in our house, as my bride and I struggle to eat well but eat more healthy.  We’ve actually served it to quite a few family members and friends, always for breakfast, and most have loved it.

I’ve played around with the black bean recipe alot over the course of the last couple years. I’m not claiming that it is “authentic” Santa Fe! It’s what it has evolved into in my kitchen. I’ll share the basic recipe with you here and give you some ideas about how to jazz it up if you wish to.  It’s very simple with a not too daunting list of ingredients, and can be whipped up in 20-25 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:                                                                                       

1-TBSP Olive Oil or your choice of oil

3- Garlic Cloves, crushed and rough chopped

1- Chipotle Pepper in Adobo (1/2 if you don’t want so much heat)  chopped fine OR 1/2 to 1tsp Red Pepper Flakes depending on your tolerance

1- tsp Cider Vinegar (use what you have if no cider vinegar)

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Dried Oregano

1- 15.5 oz can of black beans, drained of most liquid

2 TBSP Water or Chicken Stock

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 TBSP Chopped Cilantro

PREPARATION:

Add Olive Oil to a medium sauce pan over medium low heat

Add garlic and stir often for 1-2 minutes.  Sweat it, don’t brown it

When garlic has softened add Chipotle Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes

Continue stirring for another minute then add Vinegar, Cumin and Oregano

Stir for a minute and add Black Beans and Water or Chicken Stock

Increase heat to Medium-high until it starts to bubble and return to Medium-Low for about 10 minutes.  Stir frequently.  If it gets too dry add a little more water or stock.

Salt & Pepper to taste at the end.  Careful with salt as some Chipotles are salty!

Serve with eggs, sprinkle fresh cilantro, garnish with avocado slices or guacamole, sliced tomato, pico or salsa.  And of course, tortillas if you have them.

Makes 2 breakfast size portions

There are a lot of tweaks you can do to this recipe.  Sometimes I’ll start with a couple TBSP of diced onion before adding the garlic.  Fresh Jalapeno is an obvious substitute for the Chipotle.  Some fresh diced tomato is a good replacement for the added liquid and gives it a nice zing too.  I also recommend a dash of Worcestershire if you’re feeling adventurous.  On a morning after a night out I’ll sometimes use some good beer and cook it a little longer til the beer reduces.  By the way, a cold beer with a squeeze of lime goes great with this for Sunday Brunch!

Have fun with this.  Hope you love it!

Dave

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

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Welcome to Man in an Apron!

I know, what’s cooler, sexier and more awe-inspiring than a man in an apron, right?  Add to that image that the man in question is in his mid fifties and hasn’t lost a head hair in the shower since the early nineties.  I’m fairly certain that sexy, cool, and awe-inspiring have played out their usefulness in any mental picture you may have had when you clicked the link to get here!  Fortunately, the main focus of this blog will be food, and that can be cool, sexy and even awe-inspiring.

I actually spend a lot of time in my apron; slicing, dicing, sauteing, braising, etc.  My beautiful wife always tells me I should try to get on one of those TV shows featuring non-professional chef wannabes, but originality isn’t really my forte.  I am really good at finding great recipes written by the pros, and turning them into great meals though!  I also have a talent for tweaking already great recipes and making them easier or a little different.  And that is what I plan to share with this blog…. great recipes borrowed from the pros (always with credit) and tweaks of my own that I’ve tried with positive results.

I might as well let you know up front who my culinary heroes are, since I will no doubt be borrowing from and referencing them often.  Tyler Florence has become my “Go To” guy ever since he published “Eat This Book“.  He’s a master at turning complicated flavors and dishes into recipes most of us who can chop an onion can replicate.  Bobby Flay is not only a Rock Star to all grillers, but offers unique recipes for almost every ingredient imaginable. When I need to know something basic like what temp this turkey breast should be or what’s in a good crepe batter, Betty Crocker almost never fails me.  And finally, when I need to do something for which I don’t have the correct gadget,or want to try to sous vide without an immersion circulator, etc. I will always Google Alton Brown.

I hear you, where’s Julia and Jacques and Daniel and Wiley….?  Love them too, and would pant at a chance to eat anything they would cook for me!  They just don’t find their way into many of the dishes I whip up.  That’s not to say they’ll never show up here though!

So, what kind of food am I talking about?  What do I cook/eat and will want to share here? It may be easier to give you the short list of what doesn’t turn me on and what I haven’t yet attempted to make.  I don’t do casseroles!  My wonderful Mother fed a family of six on a shoestring budget, wonderfully on casseroles.  I have many great food memories in life, but none of them are a casserole.   I don’t use many ingredients that come from a can except tomatoes and occasionally beans.  I have never attempted Japanese cuisine although I count it as one of my very favorites, and Morimoto in Philly, my absolute fav.  I also don’t own a wok and live in an area where I have the luxury of many great takeout places, so Chinese, not so much. Everything else is fair game here.  Head to toe, sea to forest, San Francisco to Mumbai, and kitchen to backyard smoker.

“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.”  George Bernard Shaw

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