If I had a dime for every cup of coffee I ever drank. Man, would I be rich! I don't think it's the coffee itself, but the honor of who you're drinking it with and the time spent in the process. Yes, I have my times of solitude. Those are often less eventful, when writing is a sabbatical gone fishing or time of walking with just my mug and me. Sometimes, even over the phone conversations with old friends and relatives that are coming to visit soon. The Proud Mary of conversation is always about food. It could be the darkest hour of the night or the hottest day of the year, and I'd still be talking about food in one way or another. Remember the five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. In cooking, there is a sixth sense where all of these fall together like a wheel in motion. I call it Cause and Effect. It's the mental imaging of all those senses when you throw yourself into your work and all you care about is the enjoyment you give to others. The beating of a new heart. The glow of that smile. The warmth of recognition. A lot of times when I cook, it's not about me at all, but for others and making their day a reality. A change for the better. Even at 5:07 A.M. as I'm writing this, I'm thinking about the Bananas and Guava Paste sitting in front of my face. Last nights dinner was no exception to the rule. I had bought some Ground Chuck at the store the other day and I wanted something different. My mind kept wandering back to a juicy hamburger that just kept melting in my mouth. So, the wish was installed and I was creating again. I'm not a grill guy, so things are done in the oven or on top of the stove. I just started adding things to my Chuck and the creation for AWESOME! Salt, Pepper Egg, Milk, Italian Bread Crumbs, Barbecue Sauce and Maple Syrup. I think that was it. Formed it into four large patties and placed them in the fridge on wax paper. I let them sit for about an hour. When it was time to do the cooking, I removed them from the holding area and heated a large saute pan over medium heat with a touch of cooking spray. Placed 2 at a time in the pan and cooked for about 3 minutes on each side, covered with a lid that just only covered the burgers, not the pan itself. This causes a steaming effect that makes the burgers juicier because during the cooking process, you're not bothering them. They're just doing their own thing. At the end, I covered with some Sharp Cheddar Cheese; put the lid back on, and cooked for another 45 seconds or so. Laid it on top of toasted Wheat Bread with Lettuce and Sliced Pickles. Cause and Effect! Served it with some Homemade Sweet Potato Fries that were baked with Cinnamon and Sugar and then drizzled with a pinch of Sea Salt. Cause and Effect! Solidified the meal with some fresh White Peg Corn. Then, to top it off: Sliced Watermelon for dessert. It was a great feast for a bright, but cooling mid-May day. The smiles were inviting. The conversation was lively. The wind blew through the open windows and Spring actually felt good. No banging on the door for unpaid bills. No thinking about tomorrow. Cause and Effect! Now that's Beauty!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Most of the time in the kitchen, I do whatever I want. Scratch that. All of the time. Today was no different. Many deals were scored on at the market and store this past week. So, with ideas in my head whirling around like the Tasmanian Devil, I go to the store to fill in the blanks. You really have to watch me, to understand how I react with food; especially at points of shopping and buying. When I say filling in the blanks, that's exactly what I mean. I see what I have on hand, what's on sale, and then I fill in the blanks to make it happen. Off to the market! Red Onion, Tortillas, Limes, Cilantro, Shredded Sharp Cheddar and two-for-one of the best pints of ice cream that are sold in this country. Thank two guys from Vermont! Obviously, I'm going Mexican. So, here's the concept. Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, Cream Cheese with Pepper Relish and Tomato Jam, To The Max Nachos, Corn on the Cob and Mango Daiquiris. Not bad for a guy from San Diego. The Fish Taco itself is one of ultimate fabrication: Frozen Fish Fillets that have been masterfully wrapped in a flour tortilla, that have been warmed in the oven and then doused with Pineapple Salsa. The Pepper Relish was store bought, but the Tomato Jam was homemade. I simply put the two together and mashed with a half package of cream cheese. Brilliant! My To The Max Nachos are really not that special at all, but my daughter loves them anyway. It's just Corn Tortilla Chips with Chili, Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Salsa, more Cheese and then Sour Cream and Pepper Rings. The Corn was just standard fare: Corn boiled in water and sent straight to the butter. The Mango Daiquiris were actually a mix of mango and pineapple that had been chopped then frozen and mixed with lime, sugar, rum and ice cubes to produce a frothy pitcher of melting ice heaven. I talk a mean kitchen. Who's up for dinner?
1/2 cup of Red Onion
2 tablespoons of fresh Lime juice
2 cups of Pineapple, fresh cut into cubes
1 tablespoon of Sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh Cilantro, chopped
Sea Salt to taste
Cook the Red Onion over medium heat with the lime juice until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the Pineapple, Sugar and Cilanto. Stir together and turn off the heat. This will actually cook together and bring out more of the flavor. Pour the contents into a bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours. Season with a pinch of Sea Salt. Enjoy.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
The simplest things in life are often the ones that make you smile the most. Seeing a long lost friend. Fishing in a forgotten lake. Reading a great book again. Food and cooking is a lot like life: simpler is better. When you come home from a day when everything went wrong: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. Fresh Garlic. Pasta. Hand-picked Basil from the garden. Tell me I'm in heaven. Homemade Sauce is just like a fine wine: the longer it sits, and stirs itself in the pot, the better it tastes. Of course, it must be served with a delicate touch. A hush. Seasoning must always be checked at the end. The reveal is often the most glorious part of all. The sauce has sat all day. Slow cooking its self into another worldly wonderland. Stepping back in time when Ellis Island was only a destination. Not a landmark. The hustle and bustle of NYC was now a heyday for the immigrants of tomorrow. Motorcars. Slums. Lively Conversation. Clothes hanging on high wire acts of generosity. Life before the America of today. No fancy cars. No mile markers. No A&P. No color TV. Only you and me. The world was so long ago. I hold you close. This sauce has crossed so many lines and still holds true today.
Spaghetti Sauce 101
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large can of chopped tomatoes with juice
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
Chopped Fresh Parsley
10 Fresh Basil Leaves
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. add the olive oil and get it hot. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, cooking and stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes, along with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add the parsley and basil and cook an additional 10 minutes. Check for seasoning. Move to a blender in batches and puree. Put back into the original saute pan. Enjoy with your favorite pasta.
Monday, May 9, 2011
I couldn't believe the smell of something so simple as Southern fare. My mind and appetite wondered for something original at the farmers market this morning. I saw plenty of freshness. Green Beans. Yes. Green Tomatoes. Yes. Sweet Potatoes. Check. I stopped by the store to pick up some Yellow Cornmeal. The plans were being drawn in my head. Kentucky Derby 101: Ya' ever seen a Mint Julep talk? No, but I've seen one cry. So, the stage was set. Menu: Maple Pepper Bacon, Four Cheese Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, Sweet Cornbread Muffins and Lace Cookies for dessert. If you've never heard of Lace Cookies, here's the explanation: a highly buttery and sugar cookie with a little flour and flavored with orange zest and crushed pecans and wrapped around a rolling pin to build a transparent like cookie with a lot of taste. It's a Southern Thing! Don't be caught off guard by this unmistakable beauty: it packs a lot of punch. Did my horse win in the Derby? And There Off...
Fried Green Tomatoes
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
2 tablespoons of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
4 Green Tomatoes
1/2 cup Canola Oil
Stir together the first four ingredients in a shallow dish. Heat the oil in a large saute skillet over medium-high heat. Dip your tomatoes in the cornmeal mixture and coat both sides, shaking off any excess. Drop four slices into the oil and fry about 4 minutes per side. They should be slightly brown for overall appearance. Remove from the pan and drain on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath to catch dripping oil. Repeat process until all the tomatoes are done. Enjoy!
Sunday, May 8, 2011
It's the 5th of May. Four weeks after my initial pacemaker surgery. The last 28 days have been full of excitement and bitterness on one giant roller coaster. The pacemaker has been removed from my chest wound and now the infection must be totally withdrawn before the new vision of life is placed in my body again. My patience is wearing thin from my long lines of nurses and hospital food trays. My calender has been filled by over 40 doctor appointments since the start of the year.My soul has offered me rest and comfort. I still have a slow bleed from my pacemaker surgical scar. My next visit to my cardiologist will be on Monday to concur what is to happen next. My fear grows longer with each passing day. It's not the hours. It's the miles. Last nights dinner was a celebration of the Mexican holiday. No extra large burritos. No margaritas from the blender. A tradition of fulfillment of life. BBQ Chicken Tender Nachos, Yellow Rice, Sweet Cornbread Muffins and Chocolate Orange Creme Brulee. Only using what was on hand. I live for these moments! The Chicken Tenders were baked then tossed in a Carolina Vinegar Exilir pulled straight from the Smokies. Chips, then Diced Tomatoes, then Tenders, then Cheddar Cheese, then Salsa followed by more cheese. Layered on a greased baking dish and then broiled over high heat for about 4 minutes. Removed from the oven and placed on a bed of organic greens. Topped with Sour Cream and Peppers. The Yellow Rice was packaged, but I added salsa to the mix for enhancement purposes. The Sweet Cornbread Muffins are a stable recipe I've had for years: a blend of southern hospitality and sugar plum fairy visits. The Chocolate Orange Creme Brulee was a winner. A 2nd place award from the Citrus and Celery Celebration of Oveido, Florida in many years gone by. If it wasn't about the glory, it was about the guts. Happy bloodshed and Merry Cinco de Mayo! Stay thirsty my friends.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
4:15 A.M. It's been a long 48 hours. The infection from my pacemaker surgery has gone ballistic. I wish I could tell you the pain doesn't hurt, but I'd be lying. A large infectious blend of pus and tiny bubbles has emerged from my skin. Price has a toll to pay, even when you're not going through the toll booths. Don't mind me. I just had to turn off the news. My mind wonders in this hospital room. Again. The door has been left open from the nurse who has just redressed my wound. All I know is that it's going to be a long day. The breakfast was really bad. A lot worse than the dinner I had last night. The eggs were powdered, the jelly on my toast was surgar-free and the coffee was decaf. Thank God for the regular I grabbed from the nurses earlier. The smiles are hearty and the walks are brisk. The clock in front of me on the wall is moving like a second hand in slow motion. I hear the talk of nurses and so forth down the hall. The sun is new and gleaming through onto my notebook as I write. It's a nice day. The code orange that was called out on the intercom system minutes ago, has been cleared. The only dominate sound in my room is the sound of AC coming in through the vents. It's cold.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
There is peace on earth. Whether you know it or not: Peace will be heard one day. It will be of no whisper. No sounds of birds chirping. No trees swaying. No children laughing. It will be a peace you will not understand. A reign of fall from grace. A silence that is misunderstood. Don't take this phrasing as a threat upon yourself, but as a warning of things to come. In the coming months, the laws will be twisted and turned like you've never seen before. The rules of government and society will be the likes you will have never seen before. The passing of time will be in the blink of an eye. When this happens: you won't know it hit you until it's too late. Our culture has already forgotten the likes of 9/11 and what happened that day. The 21-year-olds were only 11, and the dirt was just something to throw at neighbor boys you didn't get along with. The dirt is about to get a lot dirtier! Let this be a warning to all. God bless and good luck.