We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, July 19. 2014
A repost -
Fried Squash Blossoms are a wonderful summertime traditional Italian treat. I harvested this platterful of them last night and we fried 'em up. When served hot, and lightly browned and salted, they leave French Fries in the dust.
On summer squash like Zucchini and Yellow Squash, the blossoms on the long stalks are the males, and thus expendable. However, I use both because there's always too much squash anyway. In fact, the blossoms are tastier than the squash. (I am fond of yellow summer squash steamed with salt, pepper, and butter, not so fond of zucchini except in soup.)
Almost forgot to mention that squash blossoms prevent arthritis, dementia, laziness, neurasthenia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and cancer - and most other sorts of death and disease. Guaranteed. For a few minutes, anyway.
This site explains how simple this is, using Marcella's method. Do not wash them at all because they need to be dry - just check them for bugs inside but a few tiny bugs just adds a little protein to the mix. Brown them lightly, drain, and eat sizzling hot. Photo below from Marcella's site -
Tuesday, July 15. 2014
Friday, July 11. 2014
I am gonna make us some. Maybe some Margaritas too, if I can find my lost shaker of salt...
Life has taught me at least one thing: have your Margaritas on the weak side and life will go better. Especially with bathtub-sized ones like the above, in Cabo last March.
Here's a good ceviche recipe. (It is "ce-BEE-chay.") All I would say about it is to make it 1/2" to 1" cubes, add some chopped garlic to the mix - not too much - and forget the parsley. It has to be fresh cilantro. Red onions, not white. Some carrot slivers are fine, too, to add some crunch but no cucumber, please. Avocado and orange slices for garnish, and definitely a bowl of chips. 2-4 hours marinating in the fridge - no more, no less. Some people quickly -20-30 seconds - blanch the seafood first, but it certainly is not necessary and I never do it. My local fish market has the freshest.
My family and I could live on this stuff, in the summer. Fork, and a spoon to finish off those delicious cool fishy juices.
What fish? Well, as I reported in March, Spanish Mackeral (Sierra) is the best for ceviche but you have to go out and catch that yourself. However, any salt-water firm-fleshed (ie not sole or things like that which would turn to mush) white-fleshed fish will do, as long as very fresh. Bay or Sea Scallops are a good addition, and I have had it made with just scallops. I don't think it needs shrimp, but a few whole shrimp in the mix works fine for a garnish. It's supposed to be about the raw fishiness. Too much hot pepper distracts from that, but too little is no fun at all.
Mahi Mahi, Fluke, Shark, Sea Bass all good. I've heard of ceviche-starved Yankees using Cod and Haddock. Maybe I'll give it a try because I love that Cod.
For an appetizer, you can put it in a little bowl on some lettuce like a normal seafood salad, but I like it as a meal. There are very few cold dinners tastier than this.
Got a favorite ceviche? Let us know.
Tuesday, July 8. 2014
My Rhubarb patch is having an excellent year.
Easiest thing in the world to grow in colder climates (comments there are useful). Just needs sun and fertilizer Spring and late summer/fall (bag of cow manure or whatever).
Can you gnaw on the raw stalks? You bet. Very tangy.
A few nights ago I made Rhubarb Compote (for on top of Vanilla Haagen Dasz) for dessert for friends. So much for those people who didn't think they liked Rhubarb.
Simple. I chopped up about 4 cups of Rhubarb stems, threw into a pot with 2 tbsp. of butter and a tablespoon or so of water, then stirred it around for about ten minutes with sugar to taste. I used only around 1 cup or less of sugar.
More delicious Rhubarb desserts, including Rhubarb Cobbler
Sunday, July 6. 2014
Got the entire immediate family crew coming, plus some significant others. Kids up from NYC, etc. Feeding 11 1/2 in total. Being the man, I am the Griller, and in summer, I like to grill everything outdoors. Winter too.
Vegetables grilled first, of course, because they are good at room temperature. I sort-of hate vegetables, but soaked with olive oil, salt and pepper, basil, then grilled, I can eat 1 or 2. Salads I will not touch. I have really had enough salads and vegetables in my life already, and pretended to like those animal foods for long enough. Family loves them, though, especially grilled Italian-style on a wood fire.
- Grilled asparagus, potato, eggplant, pepper, and red onion and some Asiago and Ricotta Salata on the side - as antipasto. Costco was out of summer squash.
- Two Birthday Cakes - we have 2 birthdays this week! I forgot to get the champagne.
Saturday, July 5. 2014
Thursday, July 3. 2014
- Grilled Pineapple chunks are an excellent side dish for lots of things, but especially with pork or seafood. With grilled Swordfish or Pork chops, it's the best. The grill caramelizes the sugar a bit. There are lots of recipes for it. However, you can just grill plain chunks. Some people use it as a dessert, but I think not.
- I like the flavor of grilled corn (Maize, to our foreign readers) on the cob. Maize on the cob? It's the Indian (American Indian, for our foreign readers) way. Take your ears of corn with all the leafy husks on them, rip off the loosest covering leaves, and soak them submerged in a bucket of salted water for a couple of hours. Then throw them on a hot grill and turn them as needed. The leaves will brown and burn a bit, the flossy stuff will burn off, and the corn inside will steam itself and get a bit browned. When you sense that it's about done (not too long - you have to play it by ear), serve intact and let your guests peel them.
Can you grill apples? Of course. You don't need a recipe like this. Just drizzle some honey on them.
Wednesday, July 2. 2014
Easiest thing in the world, and a great side for steak, grilled lamb and fish, or burgers. I like to do it on the grill, burning wood, but of course gas, charcoal, or even the oven work fine too.
Slice whatever you want of these things into approx 1/3-1/2" slices:
Yellow summer squash
Toss all in a bowl with olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper, dried Basil. Then bake or grill until they seem right. Each type of item might require different cook times. The burnt bits are delicious. Serving at room temp. is fine.
Monday, June 16. 2014
Sunday, June 15. 2014
Ran into two dads I know well at the market today, all planning their happy day at the grill and doing their shopping. So social and cheerful at the market it was hard to get out of there. Do dads do all of the weekend marketing these days? Seems like it. We'll have only 3 BD family dads here at the HQ with my own dad having died less than a year ago, but this dad Bird Dog will do the cooking because it's fun to do. I do prefer using firewood in the grill instead of charcoal, like camping. I don't understand why people use charcoal - or gas grills - because wood burns very well. I blame marketing. Wood makes good coals but they do not last as long as charcoal. That's the challenge.
A BD daughter has set up croquet. Perfect.
Antipasto: Grilled fennel with lemon (finocchio), grilled eggplant slices, grilled potato slices - grilled then splashed with oil, s and p, and chopped parsley. Yes, raw potato slices are easily grilled.
Apple slices and cheese for dessert. No, I am not Italian at all even though this is classic Italian/Sicilian cookin'.
All Dads need is a little appreciation, a couple of books, and butterflied lamb on the grill - cooked by Himself, of course. We do Costco for lamb.
I toss the lamb into a small garbage bag in the fridge overnight (we marinate everything in garbage bags) with olive oil, a pile of chopped fresh mint and rosemary, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Wine is optional.
Next day, toss on grill, and let the herbs etc burn into it. Unless you are Irish, cook only until red in the middle. Overcook it, and you have made a very expensive dog dinner (or an Irish feast). One cool thing about butterflied lamb is that the variation in thicknesses permits all preferences of done-ness. The thick parts should be rare.
Serve with a mountain of mashed potatoes and salad, and a Cote Roti.
If you require mint sauce, do not use the store junk. Make this - it takes 2 minutes, assuming that your mint patch is already overflowing. No dessert - you don't want to ruin the experience. Just go straight to bed with your books, dogs, and wife because you have to get back to work in the morning.
In my opinion, it's the only grilled food that approaches burgers and hot dogs for pure grilling joy.
Saturday, June 14. 2014
To my taste, a juicy Ribeye on the stovetop on cast iron, or a New York Strip on the grill with a high-blazing wood fire (no charcoal or gas, please) burnt to a crunchy crisp on the outside and raw on the inside.
Since Sicily, we have eschewed steak sauces for Pistachio Sauce - not that a really good Costco steak needs any sauce but it makes it more fun.
It's a shame that I can't find those baby pig slices to grill here in the US, miele juvenal. Damn tasty and juicy.
Sunday, June 8. 2014
Saturday, June 7. 2014
"Bob Benchley first introduced me to Ballantine Ale. It has been a good companion to me ever since. You have to work hard to deserve to drink it. But I would rather have a bottle of Ballantine Ale than any other drink after fighting a really big fish. We keep it iced in the bait box with chunks of ice packed around it. And you ought to taste it on a hot day when you have worked a big marlin fast because there were sharks after him."
- Ernest Hemingway
I remember when we used those green 40s for .22 target practice down at the farm's dump pile standing up at 40-50 yards. Not so easy to find tasty beers in green glass 40s these days. Shooting glass is more satisfying than shooting tin cans, and the big bottles are a little easier to hit.
I have always liked this ale - or whatever it is. Classic label, too. Give it a try, and think of Hemingway. It's cheap and good, if you can find it.
Thursday, June 5. 2014
Wednesday, June 4. 2014
Mint is a weed if you let it loose in your garden. It needs to be grown in pots, or out loose in a field but it is also one of the most pleasant flavorings which exist.
In the eastern Med, it's a major herb. In Turkey and environs, they mix it with yoghurt for a sauce for roast meat and fish. In Sicily, they served boiled taters with chopped mint. Quite pleasant, and an improvement on parsley. No recipe needed.
An occasional Mint Julep is pleasant, too, and I like to dry the leaves coated with sugar for treats on top of ice cream. Have to give those arabs credit for what they added to Med cuisine - but even more credit to the food explorers of the Americas: tomato, potato, squash, maize, avocado, peppers, beans, cocoa, etc., etc. These things were worth more than the gold, in the end, from a culinary standpoint. What the heck did they eat without those things?
Monday, June 2. 2014
I will grab at least one dirty water dog in the Spring, just so I remind myself that this staple is what it's always been - a nice reminder of life in New York City. The only other food I eat on the streets is the falafel or gyro made by Falafel King over by Lincoln Center. Good food at a reasonable price.
Saturday, May 31. 2014
Pic is caponata
Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant
Sicilian Pistachio Sauce for fish, roast meat, vegetables, or crostini
Cheese That Can't Stand Alone: 10 Uses for Ricotta Salata
Parsley and Mint Tabouli - you can throw some steamed zucchini in that, and you can skip the parsley
Parsley Pesto - you can use either walnuts or pignolis. Good for fish, crostini, panini.
A more complex Sicilian Pesto
Caponata. It's an all-purpose thing.
Classic Sicilian antipasto: grilled vegetables, done this way. Has to have sliced eggplant, but anything else: halved potato, halved artichoke, leek, peppers - you name it. Best grilled on wood.
Wednesday, May 28. 2014
Sicily photo travelogue #5 of 5, with summary links plus Syracusa and Ortigia, plus lots of food and the most interesting duomo
The final stop on our 2-week driving travels was Syracuse. I neglected a lot of Sicilian food in my previous Sicily posts, but I will catch up with that below the fold along with other interesting stuff.
The links to my previous Sicily posts in the recent weeks:
This final post is Siracusa/Ortigia.
Now that's Italian! There's one of our delicious, succulent Sicilian secondis (details and lotsa pics below the fold):
Continue reading "Sicily photo travelogue #5 of 5, with summary links plus Syracusa and Ortigia, plus lots of food and the most interesting duomo"
Monday, May 26. 2014
Cleaning and cooking pan fish, Louisiana-style. She has an appealing earthiness and earthy humor which are lacking in your debutantes.
Re-posted because I failed to follow my own instructions and my rhubarb patch bolted. Dealt with it today - a bit too late.
I am a fan of Rhubarb. It's tangy. Best rhubarb dish? Rhubarb cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Rhubarb won't grow much in the southern US. It requires cold winters and does not enjoy long, hot summers. A good thing about the plants is that they are perennial and last for many years. In fact, a rhubarb patch will last forever if you divide the plants every few years. They are fairly heavy feeders and like a good dose of manure regularly. The leaves are so dense that a patch doesn't really grow weeds.
When I was a kid, my Mom had the rhubarb patch right outside the horse barn, and she would routinely toss some horse poop on it. The fresh poop did not seem to bother the rhubarb.
The only problem I have had with growing rhubarb is its bolting and rapidly going to seed. That needs to be prevented by cutting off the flowering stalks promptly before they grow tall.
Often, people add strawberries to rhubarb. I think it's a sin to dilute the pure rhubarb flavor. Lots of rhubarb recipes
Wednesday, May 21. 2014
- He reminds us of the always-handy digital meat thermometer
- My Paris-trained chef friend says that canned or jarred Cassoulet au confit de canard is better than you will ever have time to make. Says it is dee-licious. Recommends the brand with the rooster. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, heat up in oven until it begins to bubble, then some chopped parsley and it's ready.
- Does adding pasta water really matter? With some other excellent tips about pasta.
- Pasta with tuna roe. I had this in Sicily. Very pleasant. Nice with some squirts of lemon on it. I'd guess the best place to get that dried tuna roe is online, like so many good things.
- Sicilian classic primi: Pasta con Sarde. Sarde, sardines, are pretty much the same critter that we often call anchovies in the US, but not the canned brown overly-intense salted variety that most people (not me) hate on pizza. The dish is best with fresh sardine/anchovies, which you can find in some stores, or canned Italian sardines without the tomato. When I was a lad doing manual labor with mostly black and hispanic guys during summers, our favorite sandwich was sardines and onion slices with some mayo, on a hard roll. Maybe a leaf or two of lettuce.
- Another easy Sicilian one, ubiquitous in Sicily - Pasta alla Norma. You can use whatever type of pasta you like for that.
Monday, May 19. 2014
Is there any difference, other than the surroundings in which you eat it - and the flavors?
Not as sweet as American ice cream. Mrs. BD likes Pistachio best, I prefer Hazelnut (Nocello - and you'd better say Nocello or they won't know what the heck you are talking about) - but I'll try anything to try to keep my weight up.
Sunday, May 18. 2014
I mailed a bottle of Sicilian Limoncello to Roger de Hauteville. Hope he likes this product of his ancestral homeland. Best when chilled in my view. My Italian in-laws are fond of it. Me? Not so much. And Grappa, I feel, is even worse but the Italians love that stuff too.
When it comes to lemon flavor, I can munch a big Sicilian lemon just picked from the tree as if it were an orange. Deliciously sweet zing.
Saturday, May 17. 2014
Eggplant is such a ubiquitous food in Sicily that you would not expect that the name, in Sicilian dialect "moolinyan", would also be a disparaging word for those with dark skin.
We had eggplant in Sicily at least three ways:
- We were served it as part of antipasto plates at least twice, sliced fairly thin with skin on and wood grilled and blackened a bit the way I like grilled vegetables.
- We were served it in the form of caponata as a bruschetta, again as part of an antipasto plate. It was served on wood-toasted bread. Fire-toasted bread is the best.
- We were served it at least three times as a pasta sauce. It's a peasant staple. Annoying that they sometimes do it with skin on, but they do. Sometimes they add chopped olives to that, or spicy pork sausage meat or zucchini. Pignoli or raisins, too. It's pretty good but not great. The only great southern Italian and Sicilian foods are their fish. Just my opinion, of course, and I do eat all of this stuff sometimes even though I am not a big fan of pasta courses.
Here's an all-purpose eggplant caponata.
As in the different parts of Italy, in Sicily they use whatever sizes or shapes their local sub-regional version of (non-egg, in S. Italy and Sicily) pasta happen to be, which is made fresh daily at the corner market. It's generally sold out before it's fully-dried. In northern Sicily, a preferred pasta is Busiata. It's a thick, curly, hand-made and hand-curled pasta. There's a career: Busiata-curler.
True story: I broke a front tooth on a hard piece of busiata and spent the rest of the trip with a missing front tooth. I told Mrs. BD that I was imitating a Brit, but also threatened to superglue a pebble in there. "Al dente" indeed. In Italy, they do serve pasta quite hard, pretty chewy with some hard and dry parts. I've broken a few front teeth, the first one playing hockey.
(A reminder about pasta: the authentic Italian way is not to put sauce on top, but to throw the pasta into the saucepan and to just lightly coat the pasta with the sauce. There is never very much sauce, just the flavoring really. After all, it's just a primi, pasta is a flavor-delivery system, but if you are a farmer you need those carbs.) I'll post on some very unusual Sicilian pasta dishes that we had, in the future. Some were more like soups.
(Page 1 of 18, totaling 443 entries) » next page