Clam Chowdah – I am from New England – it’s legal

I was sitting at the island yesterday morning updating a couple of FB pages we have, my husband’s company website and scheduling some cooking classes when my husband decided he would love for me to make him some clam chowder. I didn’t have any clam juice or can’s of clams in my cupboard. which is kind of shocking to even me, especially since they would sit quite nicely next to the beans, mustard’s and San Marzano tomatoes among everything else I have in there. I guess I could change that.

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I probably don’t have anything clam related on hand because I personally don’t eat clams, I do tend to make other soups, that I also eat, more often than clam chowder but both my guys really like it. Even though they do comment that mine is “different” don’t get me wrong they love it, but it is definitely not as creamy white (I do use milk not cream) as the ones they get when they order out. And I don’t recall ever seeing thyme in any clam chowder they have ordered. Regardless I know they love it when they ask me to make it and make a special trip to the store to pick up the ingredients for it.

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Clam Chowder

4-6 slices of bacon

1 medium onion diced

2 sticks of celery diced

1 bulb minced garlic

½ cup water

2 cups milk

4 cups clam juice

4 tbs flour

3-4 potatoes peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

½ tsp thyme

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

2 Tbs (optional)

Cut bacon into a few pieces, brown in stock pot on medium heat. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain, reserve 2-4 tablespoons off the bacon grease.  Add diced onion and celery; saute on low until soft. Add garlic saute another minute. Add flour cook thoroughly, add water and clam juice slowly stirring until smooth, add thyme and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, add diced potatoes and boil till tender 15-20 minutes.

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Side note if you want to thicken without or in addition to the flour/fat roux route and you have a potato ricer, you could peel a few potatoes and add them to the chowder, take them out and place them in the potato ricer, it will help thicken your soup/chowder

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Add clams, I tend to you use a combination of whole belly and chopped clams.  Add the milk and you can finish it off with a couple of tablespoons of butter.

Barramundi with a Butter Garlic Lemon sauce

I was at my local grocery store the other day and was looking for some Mahi Mahi they didn’t have fresh and I usually find it in the vacuum sealed frozen section. Unfortunately they did not have any but I did run across a name I have heard a couple of times on TV but have never tried; Barramundi; I was intrigued enough to pick a package up.  Yesterday I decided was the day we were going to have it for dinner.

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The beets are from my garden, I canned them over the summer

Barramundi is a mild white buttery fish from Australia; it is also called The Sustainable Seabass.

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We didn’t have internet all weekend; so my usual recipe searching wasn’t an option; I decided to keep it simple and a little light; I had on hand garlic, butter, lemon and basil which actually isn’t that unusual I pretty sure I always have them on hand. I also wanted something a little different for my sides.  I haven’t had potato latkes in a real long time and they sounded yummy.

I didn’t want a lot of clean up since my usual dishwasher; my son; wasn’t home LOL. That’s not true I was just being a little lazy. I had my skillet ready for my potatoes; I cooked them up and set them aside, added my fish and cooked them for a few minutes on each side, in a small sauce pan I made my sauce and added  to my fish and voila dinner. I bet it took less than 30 minutes for everything to be on the table.

It was delicious and very fresh, not even a little fishy smell; which is an added bonus that it didn’t smell up the house which sometimes fish can do. Not sure if you have ever shied away from buying frozen fish but it has never disappointed me. I do only buy the vacuum sealed kind; I don’t think you can go wrong since it was flash-frozen and sealed; try it if your store has it.

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Barramundi

Salt and pepper

Dry the fish on both side salt and pepper. Heat skillet on medium high olive oil, place fish in skillet cook for about 5-7 minutes, turning once cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes till just done, do not overcook it will become dry.

Garlic Butter Sauce

2 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp dried basil

2 Tbs lemon juice – I had a half of a fresh lemon that I squeezed

I really do not measure so the above is a guideline; I had 2 fillets and covered them with the sauce.

Melt butter, garlic and basil on low do not brown the garlic but you want the flavors to meld together. Add the lemon juice, set aside till needed.  This would taste delicious on any white fish.

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Simple Potato Latkes

2 Potatoes peeled and grated

1 egg

1 medium onion peeled and grated

Salt and pepper

If I am making a lot of them, I take out my food processor to grate the potatoes and onion. It was just my husband and I and I didn’t want left overs so I just brought out my box grater because I was making only a few.

Grate potatoes and onion, set aside and squeeze as much water out of them as you can.  Add the beaten egg, salt and pepper and mix till all blended.  Drop by spoonful and squish down with either a fork or I used my fish turner. Cook till browned, flip and cook the other side till browned.  Keep warm in the oven if you need to.

So I would like apologize for the delay, our internet has been down all weekend and come to find out the router is dead.  They are sending a new one out in the mail today.  Who knew in this day and age trying to find WIFI in my little town would be so difficult. I couldn’t logon to my day job WIFI, I went to Dunkin Donuts at lunch and that was pretty painful; I left.  One of the lunch spots in town USED to offer it, no more. I am currently sitting in my favorite restaurant having a yummy cocktail just so I can post my blog. Things I do for you all.

Mexican Pork Stew – easy and delicious

In cooking I truly believe that a recipe is just a place to start; use it more as a guideline than a rule. I have heard many people in my classes that only feel comfortable with following the recipe word for word. I do try to make a new recipe as written but more times than not I end up changing it, a little more of this, less of that, I’m not a mushroom fan so I have been known to grind them up, I probably shouldn’t have confessed that. Sometimes I change it for my families’ tastes; other times it is just a matter of finding what I can at my local grocery store. I would never, not try a recipe that sounded interesting to me just because I couldn’t find one particular ingredient, there are always exceptions to this rule but as far as flavorings go I feel you can use whatever floats your boat.

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Case in point a couple of years ago my sister-in-law was visiting for Christmas and while I was at work she put together her rendition of Mexican Pork Stew. She didn’t have her recipe on hand but had made it many times before so she headed out to our local grocery store.  It recall chuckling while she told me what was supposed to be in it versus what she found to substitute for the ingredients that she couldn’t find. Just recently she photocopied the page in her cookbook with the actual recipe.

Original version                               Adapted version

Canned tomatillos                               Salsa verde

Diced/seeded tomatoes                      Canned Diced tomatoes

Green hot chilies seeded                    Can diced green chilies

Since I had never had the “real” one and the one she made from my store was delicious I have made hers a few times and every time it gets eaten as a snack just heated up in a small bowl, made into a taco, and served over rice or noodle.

I hope you get a little adventurous and don’t shy away from a recipe just because there is something in it you are not a fan of, just substitute it for something you do like. Who knows you could come up with something even better than the original.

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Mexican Pork Stew – My version adapted from Debs’ which was adapted from San Francisco A la Carte cookbook

3 pound boneless pork cut into 2-inch cubes

2 tbs olive oil

1 large onion diced

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes – I had some small tomatoes I needed to use so I seeded, chopped and added them

1 4.5 ounce can of green chilies

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cumin

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 chorizo sausages skinned, sliced browned

1 cup chicken broth

In a saute pan add the oil and brown the pork on all sides small batches at a time; careful not to over crowd, place your crock-pot near the stove and transfer the browned pork into the crock-pot. Brown the chorizo I placed all of these in the pan and watched to get some brown on them, add to the crock. If the pan is dry use a little more oil. Saute the onions for a couple of minutes; add the garlic and cook a little longer; careful not to brown the garlic. Add everything to the crock-pot; cover to about halfway up the pot with chicken stock. Cook on low all day or on high 4-5 hours.

Serve with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and some sour cream.  Sliced avocado is also wonderful served on top. Great served over rice or pasta or served with mashed potatoes. Also great as a taco, be sure to use a slotted spoon to drain the liquid.  I also just love some in a small bowl with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  endless possibilities.

Eggplant Parmesan – that will convert you

All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me.  Here is yet another example of never say never.  Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe.  We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.

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Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on.  I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this.  The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.

I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…

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Sauce

2 tbs. good olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

Kosher salt

Eggplant

2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds

½ cup flour

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

3 large eggs

1½ tbs milk

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1½ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp thyme

Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups sliced provolone

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce.  Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.

In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes.  Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes.  Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.

Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry.  Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme.  Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy.  Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat until all pieces are fried.

Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish

Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses.  Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.

Weeknight Marinara Sauce

I have had a cold all week and it stinks so I decided it was a good idea to make some soup. I pulled a half dozen or so butternut squash’s from my garden so why not make a butternut squash soup. I will admit I have never really had one that I liked so I was pretty skeptical about making one. I found one online that roasted squash, onions and apples together; I liked the sound of it the smell was awesome. Unfortunately I didn’t like this one either so I am not going to share it with you all. I am very lucky that when we do not like things I can send them home with my in-laws and they end up loving it; or at least that is what they tell me.

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I did make a delicious spaghetti sauce from most of the remaining tomatoes that I got from my garden and a tossed salad with the last of my cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. So it was nice I made something we all liked that I could share with you.

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Most people I know have a go to sauce that they make, one of my girlfriends takes all day to make and it is amazing so I get it. When I have the time that is fine to have it simmering on the stove all day; most times I decide last minute that I want spaghetti for dinner. Those times I have a quick marinara sauce that has lots of flavor and it perfect for a weeknight meal.

Sauce

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 small onions; chopped

3 cloves of garlic; minced

1 ½ tsp red pepper flakes or substitute with 2-3 jalapenos cleaned and chopped fine

1 ½ tsp sugar

2-28 ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes – or substitute with 8-9 tomatoes from your garden

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onions cook for 2-3 minutes; add garlic cook another minute; season with salt and the red pepper flakes cook till onions soften 7-8 minutes. Add the sugar and tomatoes; either squeeze them or break them up with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring from time to time until the tomatoes are broken down, 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

If you do use your tomatoes you are going to want to remove the seeds and skin – I cooked my tomatoes first then put them through my new food mill.

Cook your pasta of choice and enjoy!

Grilled Skirt & Flank Steak

If you haven’t ever purchase or tried a skirt or flank steak I really think you ought to check them out. I know they look pretty funky and not very appealing to the eye being all rolled up. And they are not as wildly available in stores as all the other yummy looking steaks; but if you do come across one or both of them give them a chance. They are fairly inexpensive, burn up fast and seasoning them is pretty endless.

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Sometimes you can find them in a cryovac bag which is even better. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had taken something out of the freezer for dinner. When I see any of them I tend to throw one or more in my cart they are great to have on hand and I like that I can get to it when I want versus having to cook up whatever I wasn’t able to get to and is going to spoil. Life happens and plans change all the time in my crazy world.

If you do have time to plan a dinner ahead it is a perfect time to make a marinade so it can soak up all the yumminess and then you can burn it up the next night. If you decide last minute to make it tonight it is very easy to throw together a quick dry rub and burn it up now. Either way I don’t think you will be disappointed. Serve with a side salad or your one or more of favorite sides.

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There are a few tricks to these types of meat though. They are pretty fibrous and they really need to be seasoned well and they are best served medium rare and thin sliced. You also need to let them rest, but every meat is better if you give them time to rest to let the juice stay inside the meat instead of all over your cutting board. Once they have rested; slice them thin at an angle and against the grain for a tender bite. If you slice with the grain you will definitely know it as your jaw will be getting an incredible work out; and I fear you will never buy another one.

Dry Rub – enough for 2 or more Steaks

½ cup sweet Paprika

4 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp kosher salt

2 ½ tsp onion powder

2 tsp chili powder

¼ – ½ cup peanut oil

2 lb Skirt Steak

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

1-2 limes

Preheat grill to 450-500’ – cook meat about 2-3 minutes per side

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together; rub steak with peanut oil, sprinkle steak with salt and pepper and 4+/- tsp of rub on both sides; place on hot grill turning once. Remove from heat; squeeze fresh lime over meat, let rest for 3-5 minutes. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

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Marinade – enough for 1 Steak

1½ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped scallions

½ cup peeled chopped pear

1½ tbs sesame oil

1½ tbs grated orange zest

2 ½ tbs chopped fresh ginger

8-10 cloves garlic

2 lb Flank Steak

Place first 10 ingredients in a blender. Blend into a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a heavy duty Ziploc bag; add steak and marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat grill 450-500’ brush grill with oil; place steak on hot grill 2-3 minutes per side turning once. Remove steak to a platter, cover with foil and let rest 3-5 minutes before serving. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

Soup Season is here – Chicken Tortilla Soup

I am a huge lover of soup; it surprises me when I hear some people are not. I think of soup/chowder and stew as a warm hug in a bowl. There are endless possibilities you can combine to make a yummy pot of soup, you can add milk and/or cream for chowder, clear broth to make a light soup or combine cream and broth to make your light soup a little creamy like creamy tomato soup. I think I will make that today with the tomatoes from my garden.

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After a long day of Christmas shopping on Friday – Yup I said it; it was only for the “typical” PJ’s, socks etc. (I am going to try and spread out the money pain over a few months) items for the fam. While eating my grilled chicken sandwich I overheard the person sitting next to me ordering Chicken Tortilla Soup – So for the rest of the day all I wanted was a bowl Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Guess what I did when I got home; of course after hiding all the loot! It was a huge hit; my guys and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It comes together pretty quick and tastes great straight away; you know how some things taste better the next day; this one is d’lish now and if you happen to have some leftover for the next day I am sure it tastes just a great; we wouldn’t know!

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2 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion diced

2 Tbs minced garlic

2-4 Jalapeno’s (depending on how spicy you want it) seeded and finely diced

6 cups chicken broth (homemade if you have it)

1 28 oz. can San Marzano peeled tomatoes–while pouring out the tomatoes squeeze them into the pot to help break them up.

1-2 cans black beans – rinsed and drained

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 limes juiced

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Cilantro leaves

1 flour tortilla grilled and cut into strips or use tortilla chips crumbled

1 avocado, pitted, sliced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Dollop of sour cream

In a large saucepan heat the oil till warm, add the onions until they softened; about 3 minutes. Add garlic and jalapenos cook for another minute. Add broth, tomatoes and beans and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and add the chicken breast. Cook the chicken for about 20-25 minutes. Once chicken is cooked remove from the pot. When cool enough to handle; shred it and set aside. Add lime juice and the cilantro to the pot.  In a bowl add a mound of chicken. Ladle soup over chicken and with tortilla strips, avocado slices, cheese and sour cream. YUP hug in a bowl!!!